How does a singer/songwriter react upon realizing that his vocals and skill set are similar to the gifts possessed by a musical legend? If the singer/songwriter is Frank McComb, you embrace the similarities and while also carving out your own identity. McComb, the artist with the smooth yet soulful baritone that is reminiscent of the legendary Donny Hathaway, has been blessed to have a professional career that has lasted about five years longer than his musical hero, and McComb has used that time to build and cultivate the kind of passionate and loyal following that was also a characteristic of Hathaway’s all too short time in the public eye.
McComb certainly does not run from the similarities, as his Live at the Bitter End: Remembering Donny Hathaway album confirms. That record, recorded at the same New York venue where Hathaway recorded his famed 1971 live album, proves McComb is worthy of the comparisons. The EP Soulmate: Another Love Story continues McComb’s decade and a half work of putting his unique stamp on the music world.
The four track project showcases McComb’s voice, songwriting and his soulfully creative, jazz-influenced keyboard playing. His skills on the 88s might be a revelation for those unfamiliar with McComb. The piano has always been an arrow in McComb’s musical quiver, but the vocals play such a prominent role for many modern R&B artists that listeners rarely receive glimpses of their instrumental abilities. McComb gives keyboard fans a lot to appreciate. He is a deft, nuanced and creative keyboardist who sprinkles piano flourishes throughout all of his songs, while always managing to display his creativity as an improviser.
The keyboard nuances feature the blues chords heard throughout, giving way to the synthesized keyboard solo on “This Love Of Ours,” the EP’s opening track. “Feelin’ Some Kinda Way” opens with a melodic keyboard solo and then closes with an extended, jazzy electric piano solo. The title track is a platform for McComb’s lyrical storytelling. That narrative finds McComb seeking to convince a lady that they can have something special. McComb’s vocals have a free flowing rhythmic feel, while the instrumental arrangement on “Soulmate” ranges from gospel influenced soul to space age funk.
“She Needs Love Too” sports a “poor little rich girl” narrative as McComb tries to capture the attention and heart of a debutante surrounded by a coterie of hangers on and users. “Love can’t be brought, but lust can/And you have many friends only when times are good/But if you were to lose all that you have/I would be there for you/Like a good man is supposed to do.”
That soulful and rangy voice is what draws the Hathaway comparisons. However, McComb in an original in possession of the qualities that allowed him to develop a loyal following over the course of 15 years. Soulmate: Another Love Story brings the time honored virtues of intimacy, honesty, creative musicianship and mature lyricism while also giving listeners a fresh take on the much discussed topic of love. The four song EP is a relatively short but powerful addition to McComb’s impressive discography. Recommended
By Howard Dukes