I remember the first time that I heard Lalah Hathaway sing… Honestly, I was too young to know who Donny Hathaway was to even know that she was his daughter. Watching Soul Train that morning this young woman, not overstated in presence, belted out the first single from her debut album and sounded like she was nearly twice her age… I always love that moment when you hear a song and just KNOW that they are special. There is a certain timelessness that those moments have. I have loved all of Lalah’s work ever since… She defines the underdog in music to me; the artist that talented beyond her years, but remains largely underappreciated at the same time. “Where It All Begins” is Lalah’s bold colorful declaration that she all of the good things in music in one.
For anyone looking to classify WIAB as a jazz album…forget it. If you are looking for WIAB to include a Lil Wayne feature and a duet with Trey Songz in an attempt appeal to a younger audience…NAH. Lalah doesn’t need it and its what makes here great. Although the sounds of the collection of songs are new for her, she makes no attempts to appeal to new listeners by being someone outside of who she really is. The album does a great job of blending moods and styles of music. Throughout WIAB you hear influences ranging from R&B to Country, but it’s all Lalah…she never loses the listener.
The album opens with “Strong Woman” , a bold anthem, which is as close to as mainstream that I think I’ve ever heard her. The song’s slinky synths, heavy drums and thick bass are commanding attention as she speaks on the behalf of all of the women out there that are making it happen. In my opinion, Lalah is at her best when the mood is a little more subdued. The album’s title cut is chief evidence of this. The album’s smoother songs like the flirty “Small of My Back” or the smoky “This Could Be Love” are vintage Lalah. Of course the boundaries broaden a little when you get to the spacey but powerful “Lie To Me” or the country-tinged “Wrong Way”. Both of the aforementioned songs solidify that with integrity there are no limits for anyone in music, as she pulls both off with solid ease.
The two hightlights of the album for me personally are the remakes. The first, her stirring rendition of her father’s classic “You Belong To Me”, is a triumphant feat. The song will not only evoke the memory of her legendary father but also, solidify her place as a stirring vocalist as well. The song’s crisp production and vocals are all executed to perfection. The second remake is actually one of her own songs. At first I was supremely skeptical because the original of “I’m Coming Back” is one of my favorite songs ever, but she quickly eased all of my fears. The song is beautiful and accentuated by the prescence of another underrated vocalist in the phenominal Rachelle Ferrell, who provides some confection towards the end of the song.
Overall, Lalah Hathaway will always be one of my favorite people in music. She respects the craft and is a consummate professional when it comes to everything that she does. “Where It All Begins” is another great addition to her impressive catalogue of musical triumphs. She still thrills me like the young girl on Soul Train…and that to me embodies who she is…timeless.
“Small of my Back”
“You Belong To Me”