Tanika Charles is a vibrant soul, and her long-awaited album reflects that.
A mainstay in the Toronto music scene, the R&B/soul singer-songwriter has had success providing support vocals for artists like Bedouin Soundclash and, most recently, Zaki Ibrahim. Her 2010 EP, titled What!What?What!?, hinted at what a full-length album might hold; now, with Soul Run, Charles has fulfilled that promise, and then some.
Soul Run is an intensely personal project, with the catalyst being a classic breakup tale: Alberta-raised Charles was living on a farm, stuck in an unrewarding relationship when she one day just decided to up and leave, packing her stuff and stealing her soon-to-be ex's vehicle en route east to Toronto.
The album — originally due out more than two years ago — leans hard on a throwback Motown sound, but isn't constrained by it. The Slakah the Beatchild-produced "Darkness and the Dawn" is modern-minded with a breezy old-school feeling, while syrupy-but-substantial soul is the order of the day on "Heavy," on which Charles sing that, "Your love is so heavy / And your world is all that my shoulders can take." Elsewhere, the guitar-driven "More Than A Man" is supremely chill, "Waiting" has a clear Jackson 5 groove, the carefree "Two Steps" makes one want to do just that and the title track effectively captures the emotional vibe of the overall album: living life free, self-determined and with no regrets.
With the possible exception of "Money" — which is fun, but not particularly powerful — Soul Run is fresh, funky and freeing, a solid soul standout that sets the groundwork for future releases to follow. Hopefully, we won't have to wait as long. (Independent)