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Record Review


National critics have labeled India Arie the next protégé of Kedar "I brought you Erykah Badu" Massenberg, just because he helmed her big-time Motown records debut, Acoustic Soul. But we locals know better. We've watched her grow up in the Atlanta music scene, lugging that signature guitar from Little Five Points to the West End. We've heard her nurture that charming folk/soul sound of hers to a mature assertion of who she is. So we wonder how much of that integrity is allowed to remain intact in this national outing.

All of it, for the most part. India's left to write and strum along with most of her 15 tracks. Her typical out-of-the-box vibe introduced in the single "Video" continues. As she did onstage, she shares her simple observations on love and life. Through her, we learn the best way to say "I love you" is "I love you," as in the lyrics to "Simple." Through her, we realize just how intriguing melanin can be, care of the song "Brown Skin."

It's remarkable how Massenberg and company seem to know just where to spice up these pieces with a hip-hop beat, elegant string -- or just leave them be. (But then again, he's the guy who brought us Erykah Badu.) Here's hoping the masses will understand what we locals already know: Arie deserves the same due.

India Arie performs at the PlanetJam Cotton Club Sat., March 31.

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