Femi’s second album release From Indiana with Love is an eight song follow up to his well received debut From Spain with Love and boasts a bevy of guests working alongside this Nigerian American songwriter, musician, and singer. His multi-instrumental talents ensure listeners will return again and again to this collection and revel in its riches; giving it a single listen and setting it aside will deprive you of the chance to hear something new each time you play these songs. I am bowled over by the fluid synthesis Femi achieves tying a variety of genres together in a coherent musical tapestry and, like the very best songwriters and musicians, he makes the labors of creation sound effortless. The great naturalness of these songs, however, is just one of many strengths you’ll discover listening to From Indiana with Love.
I knew I would love this album after hearing its first song. His complete restructuring of the classic “Ain’t No Sunshine” is a virtual primer on how artists should cover well known songs – rather than just talented mimicry, bring something of yourself to the performance and don’t be content with listeners recognizing the original and being happy with the fact. He brings a rock edge to the song’s second half the classic version lacks and fills the performance with passionate desperation that left me wide-eyed with wonder. His fellow musicians in the musical collective Indiana Jonesin sound quite inspired as well.
He tosses in another cover, albeit brief, with a take on the Frankie Vali golden oldie “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and I finished the song wishing he had produced a full length cover rather than teasing listeners with this tantalizing snippet. It provides a sharp contrast with the next song “Space for My Guitar”, a straight up blues track segueing from acoustic Delta styled blues into a raucous second half that wouldn’t be out of place in a smoky Chicago club. His facility with a variety of styles separates him from more run of the mill cookie cutter performers – by miles.
Jazz influences make themselves felt at various points over the course of the album’s eight tracks and one of the strongest invocations of that genre arrives with the fifth song “Ain’t No Love Song”. Femi impressed me by ceding the opening verse to guest vocalist Gina Sobel and her near ethereal pipes are juxtaposed against Femi’s grittier delivery with superb results. The presence of flute in the song accentuates its jazzy pedigree. “Build for Us” is another brief track, longer than the earlier Frankie Vali cover, but the lyrical fragment is rife with emotion Femi’s voice communicates with apparent effortlessness.
The album closer “Senorita” revisits Femi’s rock inclinations while mixing them with his obvious love for hip hop. The results are muscular and linger in the memory long after the track concludes. I love how the steady rise of this performance works in such an effective way – it isn’t a long song, clocking in at just over five minutes in length, but Femi and Indiana Jonesin nevertheless demonstrate great patience for letting the drama build. I had never heard Femi before this album and didn’t know what to expect going in, but the uniform excellence of this release has made me a believer.