Meshell Ndegeocello – Pour une âme souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone
Record Label: Naive
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2012
She”s been called an antagonist, hyper-political, and an arch-feminist, to name but a few. She’s been marginalized, scrutinized and criminally overlooked. But twenty years into her career, Meshell Ndegeocello is soldiering on. That commitment to her craft explains why her latest album, Pour Une Ame Souvraine (For a Sovereign Soul): A Dedication to Nina Simone, is arguably one of her absolute best. This tribute to the indelible icon is Ndegocello’s tenth disc and second on French label Naive.
On it the producer/bassist/songwriter covers an array of sounds. The disc’s first single is “Be My Husband,” a song thick with attitude. Amid a bevy of stomps, claps and chants, guest vocalist Valerie June and Ndegocello craft a song that is buoyant, buzzy and rewarding. One of the disc’s best songs is “Real Real,” a supple and pliant affair that draws on the contributions of Toshi Reagon. A quiet and ruminative number, there’s a definitive sense of beauty and wonder here. Ostensibly a love song, it is arguably one of Ndegeocello’s best songs to date.
The veteran bassist is not one to shy away from a challenge and so Pour Une Ame Souvraine features two seminal classics. The weary ballad “House of the Rising Sun,” is an inspired step forward while her stab at the classic “Feeling Good,” is commendable and safe. Truly there’s nothing edgy or exciting about it and in many ways its about as humdrum as it gets.
But, as one would hope, Pour Une Ame Souvraine does have other inspired moments. Those include the vernal “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” which features vocals from Lizz Wright; and the jazzy “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” as sung by Cody ChesnuTT. Other guest stars include Tracy Wannomae on the sleek “See Line Woman,” and Sinead O’Connor on “Don’t Take All Night.”
Though it can be long and drags at times (namely “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair”) Pour Une Ame Souveraine is a compelling album and another notch on the belt of an artist who continues to pursue her own agenda. She doesn’t mind being marginalized. She doesn’t mind barbs and critiques. In the end, she just wants to make music on her terms. And when she releases an album as gorgeous as this, well then hot damn, that my friends is justification.