Self-Release – 2017
8 tracks; 34 minutes
Still in his twenties, Akeem Kemp is from Alabama and this is his sophomore album. Recorded at two different studios, the album contains six originals and two familiar covers. Akeem handles vocals and guitar with Khaleel Tyus on keys, Kentrell Clemons on bass and Xavier Acklin behind the drum kit. The general style is smooth blues and soul: Akeem has a clear and pleasant voice and plays some nice guitar, all of which works well across these songs though a little more ‘bite’ in both areas would add more dynamism to the disc.
Akeem’s smooth playing opens “Doubting My Love”, a ballad in which Akeem wants reassurance that his lover is still confident about his own love for her. “Running Crazy” is in similar vein with the rhythm section getting our toes tapping on a gentle shuffle and Akeem plays some stinging notes without distortion. The title track “A Woman Needs Love” is again gentle-paced and has some lovely guitar work from the start with backing vocals adding to the chorus (presumably the band members though none are credited on the album sleeve). The first cover is “I’ll Play The Blues For You”, written by Jerry Beach but forever associated with Albert King and it is always hard to get away from Albert’s definitive version. Akeem plays it fairly straight in terms of vocals and guitar though there are some synth strings in the background and the rhythm section add some modern elements, to these ears adding a slight rap feel to the drum and bass parts.
Things get a little funky with “Nobody Here To Love” which includes a short rhythm section feature. We then get the second cover, the familiar “As The Years Go Passing By” – a song so good that it has been recorded many times over the years by artists of the calibre of Albert King (again), Fenton Robinson, Otis Rush, Gary Moore and Jeff Healey, to name but a few. Akeem again plays this one pretty straight, his clear vocals and guitar tone well featured across the six minutes of the longest track here. For the final two numbers the tempo increases and we get simulated live audience reaction on “Do Yo Thang” which bounces along in funky manner with Akeem dubbing wah-wah beneath his usual smooth guitar; album closer “Road To Memphis” talks of the life of a traveling musician, Akeem bemoaning the fact that he is only “twenty years old, you might think that I’m fifty, dreadlocks in my hair, you wouldn’t think that I was a hippy. Peace, love and music the only set that I play, ‘the sky is crying’, ‘I believe it’s going to rain’”. Although it is the shortest song here the more personal lyrics and lively performance make it one of the stronger tracks on the album.
There is certainly promise here but I feel that Akeem needs an adviser, maybe a producer to get the best out of him. With solid guitar skills and voice he has everything you need to succeed.