India.Arie showed early in her career that she was about something entirely different than the current generation of R&B divas, and she steps even further away from the crowd on her third disc, Testimony: Vol.
India.Arie showed early in her career that she was about something entirely different than the current generation of R&B divas, and she steps even further away from the crowd on her third disc, Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship. Three years in the making, Testimony is as much about expressing India.Arie's developing life thesis as it is about the music. And at a time when dozens of artists like the Pussycat Dolls are joyfully equating physical hotness with female value, there's something refreshingly countercultural about Arie's reflective (if sometimes simplistic) proclamations of precious human value as simply being inherent in the creation by God. So songs like "Private Party," in which she celebrates her personal worth, don't sound self-indulgent but rather come off as spiritual -- almost prayerful. Testimony is not overly serious, but Arie is clearly working through each lyric to imbue it with her personal essence.
Musically, the album is generally strong, if not overwhelming. As in prior albums, Arie floats between soul and folk leanings, but is at her best on some of the most offbeat cuts. "India Song" and "Summer" have a bluesy, country feel (compliments of guest artists Keb Mo and Rascal Flatts/Victor Wooten, respectively) and are probably the strongest compositions on the album, while the disc's first single, "I Am Not My Hair" (here in the remix with Akon), moves beyond novelty with repeated listenings and settles in as a solid acoustic soul number. And while nothing else is as radio friendly as "Video" or "Slow Down" from her earlier albums, cuts like "Good Morning," "Wings of Forgiveness," the hidden cut "This Too Shall Pass" and especially the wonderful cover of Don Henley's "Heart of the Matter" make this a consistently pleasing disc front to back.
By any measure, Testimony: Vol. 1 is a personal success for India.Arie that should be welcomed by her sizeable fan base and should solidify her position as one of the most thoughtful, admirable young artists around. Recommended.
by Chris Rizik