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Soul assured

Anthony David has what many pretenders don't


Soul music has reached an impasse. The influx of wannabes has left open-mic attendees cringing in disgust. Consumers are unfulfilled by cheap knock-offs hoping to pimp the soul system. But it takes more than vintage T-shirts, old-school sneakers, incense and head wraps to create classic chords. It's something internal that all great artists emanate from their being. Donnie Hathaway made it cool. Rapahel Saadiq gave it an update. Me'Shell Ndegeocello blurred the lines of demarcation.

Atlanta's Anthony David has the blood and grit of soul legends running through his veins. His cognizant, true soul can't be willed -- its authenticity can't be purchased. While many of his contemporaries are content playing dress-up and producing safe radio-friendly singles, David's down-home guitar licks create melodic bridges over troubled musical waters.

With everybody and their mama's mama bum-rushing the soul genre, it becomes quite easy to lose sight of what is really important -- embracing musical substance over style. "It's very easy to fall under a banner that sells and not work at making good products," says David. "Many artists feel they do not have to put in any work -- that they can just switch over. But soul music demands more musicianship than typical club R&B -- more concentration on music and less on image."

David honed his blue-collar approach to cultural production during his childhood in Savannah. There he penned poems and screenplays, and acted in community productions. During a performance at an Army benefit, he discovered he could "sang." With help from a mentor named Laz, who gave him a "$10,000 music education in three months," David honed his signature smooth baritone. While living in the West End, he would sit on his fire escape learning to spin the world outside his window into song. Years later, he would meet his soul sista India.Arie while shopping in Underground Atlanta. Together they set off to change the world one song at a time.

David would contribute to Acoustic Soul and travel the world backing Arie during her tour with Sade. "Working with India all these years has been a positive affirmation for me," says David. "I learned how people just want to be entertained sometimes and how valuable that is. Watching Sade and her band taught me the rewards of writing classic material."

A continuation of music that matters, Anthony David's good musical will is more necessary than ever. From acoustic ballads to funky hip-hop rants, his songs in the key of Southern life remind us of our own humanity. "I want people to see in me the vast potential black music has to offer," says David. "I want them to see positivity, negativity. An artist that is complete knows how to deliver the full range of the human experience, from sorrow to extreme joy and celebrate all of it."

An admirable goal in an angst-filled generation that has mastered songs of excess, lust, self-loathing and death. David's old-soul sensibility and craftsmanship as a songwriter soak up the influences of Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, OutKast, Sleepy Brown and the Roots. Whether he's exorcising his love jones on underground hits like "Cold Turkey," free-falling in love on the hypnotic groove "Believe Me," or dancing on rainbows with Jessica Care Moore on "Yes," the heir apparent's acoustic EP leaves listeners punch drunk from an intoxicating mix of raspy vocals and kind of blue melodies.

But success aside, David is far too wise to rest on past glories. Accordingly, he has reinvested in his artistic side: building Port Continuity Studios, contributing to the rap/rock outfit El Pus, developing vocalists Slick and Algebra, rocking live sets with fellow hip-hop theologian and homey DRES tha Beatnik, and churning out some of the best damn tunes of our day.

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