HITS Daily Double


Our Lord & Master Stops Givin’ Money Away To Go On The Record About Records
By Lenny Beer

[Editor's note: Back in August our esteemed Editor In Chief raved about two artists who should be contenders for the Best New Artist Grammy. Here it is again—in case your drug-addled brain couldn't handle it the first time.]

People inside and outside the business are always asking for tips on great new albums and great new artists. In 1999, the answer was easy—I could just say, "Go listen to Macy Gray," and be the local genius. The year before, also a piece of cake—Lauryn Hill. This year has been more difficult, despite a flood of sensational individual songs in the marketplace. While I could name the Shelby Lynne and Dido LPs six months ago, there has been a dearth of quality impact albums since then.

Now, two new artists spring forth at once—artists as stylistically dissimilar as possible, but unified by their warmth, charm, authenticity and overall brilliance. Both originated in nurturing, non-mainstream environments but are now hooked up with majors equipped to take them to the masses, where they belong. Say these two names together for the first time and remember both when you're making your nominations come time for Grammy consideration—David Gray and Jill Scott.

Remember when male singer-songwriter/folksingers were everywhere? James Taylor, Steve Goodman, Jonathan Edwards, Van Morrison, John Prine and, of course, Bob Dylan. Then the species became extinct. These days, the only male folksingers you hear are those few who appear and then disappear on stations like Los Angeles' KCRW. But now, along comes the Manchester-born, Wales-raised Gray, who's a little Prine, a little Dylan. After a string of unsuccessful major-label releases, Gray retreated of his own volition, recording "White Ladder" on his own dime, initially releasing it through his Iht label—and the rest is becoming music-business history. The LP shot to #1 in Ireland, exploded in England, was picked up by Dave Matthews' ATO label, has been selling in the U.S. from Triple A play and personal appearances and now has been picked up by RCA.

But why is "White Ladder" so special, you might ask? Simply because it is simple—simply elegant, simply unique, simply perfect and armed with the simply excellent hit single "Babylon," making it simple to get into. Gray lists Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks" as his personal fave; when was the last time you heard a statement like that? His unique vocals over a sparse, anti-pop background make for a single that's about to break wide open—one that just might herald the beginning of a new/old movement. If Gray becomes Nirvana, we can hardly wait for this movement's Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Listen to the album more than once; you'll be glad you did.

If you combined Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Macy Gray, adding a touch of Ella Fitzgerald, you'd have Jill Scott. The Philadelphia-based Scott has been writing and performing with and for the hip-hop hipsters the Roots (including the Grammy-winning song "You Got Me" by The Roots featuring Badu). Scott's debut album, "Who Is Jill Scott?," has been released on Hidden Beach (Michael Jordan and Steve McKeever's label through Epic). Already selling from appearances, press and word of mouth, the album started to take off after her astonishing performance two weeks ago on "The Chris Rock Show," during which she sang "Gettin' In The Way" and brought down the house.

Radio is beginning to catch on to this unstoppable smash, and the album features a generous list of follow-ups, including "A Long Walk," a bona fide masterpiece. Scott is a poet with a voice that ranges from the erotic to the downright sweet. I'd suggest you check it out when you have time for an entire album—not when you're attempting to listen to cut five while taking a call, responding to an instant message and writing an e-mail. As we said earlier and repeat for emphasis, you'll be glad you did. Her album is fresh, bold and brilliant. One listen and you'll definitely know who Jill Scott is.