CD Review by: LE LE SYMONE
Eric Roberson is not the called by some “The King Of Independent R&B” for nothing. A New Jersey native who earned his music credentials at Howard University and built his career the old-fashioned way via songwriting and studio work with a variety of performers (Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and Dwele…etc), Mr. Roberson’s grind and skill set (as both a solo artist and more recently with United Tenors) has resulted in critically-acclaimed CDs, dream collaborations with the likes of Lalah Hathaway and Robert Glasper and his recent first-ever Grammy nomination. If even after all of that you’ve never heard of the man, there are seven previous projects waiting to get you acquainted, but this review focuses only on “Erro’s” newest one, THE BOX.
It’s been the unfortunate tradition of some independent performers to water down their unique qualities the more visible they become, but Mr. Roberson only improves on the blueprint. If he’s not channeling the 1980s in the breezy mid-tempo groove, “Imagine” (featuring KING) or wishing to turn back time in the tender, urban-adult-friendly “Haunted,” Eric is dropping jazz scat in the feverish ‘cold feet’ jam called “Pill” or wanting to take comfort and cuddling to the next level in “Warm.” From one style to the next, Roberson impresses with his vocal range and musical depth.
If that versatility isn’t enough, Eric earns points for not ODing on guest appearances (Dave Hollister, Pharoahe Monch) and making every other song into a bedroom banger. Roberson certainly craves the love connection, of course, (“Lust For Love” and the CD’s first single, “Mark On Me”), but he also wants his lady to be herself (“Don’t Hide Your Wings”), feel heard (“I’m Not Trying To Keep Score No More”) and yes, return his heartfelt efforts to their loveship (“Do The Same For Me”). Thanks to creating one of the most engaging and enjoyable releases of 2014, Eric Roberson’s crown as Independent King is remains safe and his old and new “Erf’lings” should expect his profile to not stay Boxed in under the mainstream radar for that much longer.