Published Sep 30, 2015Lightening up considerably after 2013's gloomy Tortured Soul, the fifth offering by veteran American soul vocalist Nicole Willis (and third collaboration with Helsinki-based the Soul Investigators), Happiness In Every Style, is a sparkly, feel-good affair. As a "retro-soul" unit fronted by a dynamic and veteran female singer, the comparisons to Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings might seem inescapable, but at this stage, they're not only disingenuous but redundant, given the high quality of material and Willis and the Investigators' growth as songwriters and instrumentalists evidenced here.
"One In A Million" is a brisk, uptempo testimonial to the bliss of true romance that kicks the set off with an effervescent vibe, and an overall theme of love and regeneration fuels the album's best tracks. Willis's emphatic vocals are showcased to wonderful effect on "Angel," a tender, ethereal ballad that evokes Thom Bell's early 1970s productions. The confident glide of "Together We Climb" and the straight up funk mover "Let's Communicate," which climaxes with a stinging psychedelic guitar solo, are both standouts, while even a moodier reflection on the downside of devotion like "Where Are You Now" goes down smooth.
Closing with the deeply bouncy Afro-funk-flavoured delicacy "Hot Sauce," Happiness In Every Style is a potent offering that lives up to its title admirably. (Timmion Records/Light In The Attic)