The Bravest Man in the Universe

It’s too long since I’ve been into a new album. There are few musical experiences sweeter than hearing something fresh that you really dig. As luck would have it, Billy and Dad are currently into Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man in the Universe, which we’ve been awaiting for a few months now.

It sounds like Bobby has reconnected with his inner power. The great soul artists seem to have used this millennium to make comebacks. I’m thinking especially of Solomon Burke’s last albums, which were absolute gems. Bobby Womack has always been committed to keeping R&B current. But what’s wonderful about Bravest Man is that as fresh as it is, it doesn’t sound like there’s any straining to be relevant.

Every track is good. The first side of the album is particularly sweet. “The Bravest Man in the Universe,” which opens with a cello and Bobby crooning and almost immediately launches into that great groove of his, then what should with justice go high on the charts “Please Forgive My Heart,” then a moving, stripped-down version of “Deep River” (with Bobby’s rough great guitar strumming), then “Dayglo Reflection,” which is currently my favorite, a really haunting song that features Lana Del Rey.

Then, a kind of gorgeous country number: “Whatever Happened to the Times?”

The second side is great, too.

There’s a charming simplicity-complexity to the whole album, a kind of light Philip Glass layering of rhythms, melodies, instruments. But it’s Bobby Womack’s voice that makes it, full of range, brokenness, mastery, joy. Really good.

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