Much of Billy Davis’ A Family Portrait feels like a dedication to the joyful hip-hop and jazzy neo-soul of the ‘90s, with reference points such as Arrested Development and D’Angelo sitting alongside those of more contemporary acts like Anderson .Paak, The Internet and Donny Trumpet.
The music is relentlessly positive, but with enough jazziness to it to make it feel simultaneously downbeat and smooth. This is in a large part due to Davis’ organ and piano sounds that lend the album both an introspective quality and a musical complexity.
While this is not a band album, the full sound of Billy Davis’ live show with The Good Lords is still represented. The arrangements are very tasty, with plenty of space allowed for the vocalists to feature with the guitar, keys, backing vocals and occasional horns being brought in when appropriate over the synth bass and drums.
The album is also a bit long in general, with some moments that make the whole slightly weaker with their inclusion, such as the spoken word track I Don’t Care.
There are also times when the feel is a little bit too laid back, such as on Earthquakes, which is all twinkly keys and loping synth bassline. However some of the slow jams are also amongst the album’s standout moments, such as the Jace XL assisted smooth R’n’B moment Postcards. Both of the uncredited vocalists featured on Not Polite give incredible performances, the song being a soulful ‘90s-style jam that deserves to be on every playlist come summer.
Written for Beat Magazine.