Husky. Tender. Sexy.

Lalah Hathawy is 5 solo albums deep in a career that began in 1990 with Lalah Hathaway. Most artist with a 22-year-old recording history would be considered  a seasoned veteran with a household name. Yet Lalah Hathaway remains an atypical underground artist. Among R&B enthusiasts she is loved and appreciated, and routinely sells out small, intimate venues. However, like many Spotlight On selections, she hasn’t received commercial success by which many artists, musical and non, are judged.

Many female artist generate appeal by stretching the limits of their soprano, high-octave range. They make videos filmed with their bodies dancing to beats with strategically placed clothing to enhance their sexual appeal. Their labels invest money in promotions, collaborations, and ancillary endorsements. Consequently, we’re privileged to enjoy richly talented artists whose lyrical interpretations and vocal kinetics soundtrack memories we’ll remember until Alzheimer’s ends it all.

Not Eulalah Hathaway.  Her eponymous début enjoyed heavy rotation on R&B stations, introducing a mix of mid-temp toe-tappers (“Somethin'”” and “Heaven Knows”) and two solid ballads: “I’m Coming Back” and “Baby Don’ Cry”. A very under-the-radar- second album (A Moment), and silence…..

In 1999, Lalah collaborated with Joe Sample, famed pianist and original member of The Crusaders. Together, they produced The Song Lives On, one of  the better jazz albums of the decade, of which Lalah’s vocals invigorated jazz standards (“Fever” ) and updated underrated musical hybrid torch songs (“When Your Life was Low”, “When the World Turns Blue”). While new to jazz audiences, it was a refreshing return for her R&B fans wondering where her career had gone after her 1990 début.  Despite TSLO’s jazz categorization, in its wake, Lalah Hathaway’s style was tagged with the neo-soul label. Yet, anyone that had listened to her first three albums would have definitely refuted that her style and content were “neo” anything. Nonetheless, the appellation probably helped keep her socially relevant as R&B hiccuped its’ way through yet another reincarnation. Despite TSLO’s commercial and critical success, Lalah would not put out another album until 1994’s Outrun the Sky whose anchor song, a remake of Luther Vandrooss’ class “Forever, For Always, For Love”, reaffirmed her role as a sophisticated and fearless, deeply talented and intelligent singer, stylist and interpreter.

Fortunately, we haven’t had to wait decades between drops. Lalah’s been kind enough to drop a few collaborative gems and concert performances.  In 2008, she released Self-Portrait and in 2011 Where It All Began. Her latest album, Where It All Began, features one of her few interpretations from her fathers’ discography, “You Belong to Me”.  As showcased on Outrun the Sky, she maintains Luthers’ ability to take a popular, beloved classic and make it hers while honoring its’ tradition and roots. As she noted in a recent interview given to Black Enterprise (January 2012), despite 22 years in the business, at 42, she feels like she’s at the beginning again, and starting off on top.  We’re so happy to welcome her back home.

Track List:

Stay Home Tonight/Better & Better/Heaven Knows/Let Go/How Many Times/Dealing f Eric Roberson/That Was Then/Outrun the Sky/My Only/One Day I’ll Fly Away/Forever, For Always, For Love/Naked Truth/When Your Life was Low/I’m Coming Back