CD Review: The Ear Hustler by Geno Young

Review By: Melody Charles

Born and raised in Dallas TX, but endowed with skills that were sharpened at Washington DC’s prestigious Howard University, Geno Young is one of the city’s most talented and versatile performers (his resume includes collaborations with Carmen Rodgers, N’Dambi and Erykah Badu, with whom he toured as a musical director) so it’s no surprise that his sophomore CD, Ear Hustler, showcases the atmospheric production, insightful lyrics and charismatic tenor that he gave us a taste of on his also-independently produced 2004 debut, Ghetto Symphony.

Part of his appeal as a musician is how he combines his flair for the narrative with his prowess as a track master and melody-maker: there’s genuine angst in his rueful mid-tempo lament about the girl who got away, “Shoulda,” and he dips deep into his vocal register to deliver some cautionary life lessons in the moody, blues-tinged “Otherside of Life.” The poignant, Stevie-Wonder recalling “Crazy” is lush and recalls blue lights, incense and shag carpets, it’s so retro. Not that he’s mired in the past though: just as he did on his previous CD with George Benson’s “Broadway,” Mr. Young puts a unique imprint on a classic by re-interpreting a rap song, MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin,” with coolness and verve that preserves all of the attitude of Lyte’s original, but sweetens it with a just hint of croon.

With his ability to combine multiple eras and influences—“Condition” is as full-bodied as it is vintage, featuring saucy sopranos, wah-wah guitars and syncopated percussion, while “All I Have” offers starry-eyed devotion over a buoyant, billowy groove—-Mr. Young proves that he is an intuitive, and at times, innovative, soul man.  The interludes get irritating (all five of them) after awhile and one wishes that he would explore the depths of his vocal range as he does his musicianship, but those detractions shouldn’t prevent folks who appreciate raw ability and artistry from getting their Ear Hustle on.

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