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In This Life Together

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Album Review

The Ashford & Simpson of neo-soul, Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon, aka Kindred the Family Soul, continue their ongoing autobiography in song with their second album, In This Life Together, its title borrowed from a dual memoir by the husband-and-wife acting and activist team of Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis, who is quoted and name-checked in "The Quote (Interlude)." Typical of neo-soul recordings, the music, provided by a succession of multi-instrumentalist composer/producers (Yameen, Dinky Bingham, Boy Genius, Kristin Price, Chuck Treece, Easy Mo Be, Elise Perry, Anthony Bell, etc.), is mid-tempo, synthesizer-and-drum-programming-driven approximations of 1970s soul in the manner of Marvin Gaye and Sly & the Family Stone, tricked out with contemporary hip-hop elements, including a couple of unnecessary guest raps. Over the tracks, Dantzler and Graydon improvise singsong melodies and intone repetitive hooks, but what really matters is not the music, it's the message. The couple are unabashedly autobiographical; you can't get through the first real song, "Thru Love," without knowing how many children they have and what their sexes are (a son and two daughters), and by the final track, "Bed Time Story," you're being informed, "Aquil has started a new school, and oooh he's doing well." Such details, however, only serve to make their material universal. In contrast to most urban music (and most pop music in general), the subjects here do not concern new love or love gone wrong, they are about the love continuing in a real, committed relationship, that of a contemporary, working-class African-American couple. That love faces many challenges — the word "stress" turns up in no less than four songs (post-traumatic on one occasion), and "pressure" and "struggle" are repeated, too. Even in a mutual love song like "Thru Love," the singers pause to ask, "Still, who says it's gonna last forever?" But this is more than just couples therapy set to music. "Sneak a Freak" addresses the possibilities of intimacy sandwiched in between all of life's responsibilities; "Woman First" is Graydon's reflection on how her husband's love helps her get through daily strife ("Ever since I had the babies, I just don't feel the same"); and "Message to Marvin" is an update on Gaye's "What's Going On," with the chorus, "What the hell is going on?" There are also songs of faith ("As of Yet") and reflections on parents ("Struggle No More," which oddly contains a verse contributed and sung by India.Arie that is a complete non sequitur). In other words, the collection presents a full-scale portrait of life for a loving, struggling, contemporary couple with three kids trying to keep things together, a life not that different from most people's. That is actually a refreshing perspective to find expressed in popular music, and one a wide audience should be able to identify with.


Formed: 2002 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Kindred the Family Soul is a Grammy-nominated adult contemporary R&B duo from Philadelphia consisting of husband and wife Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon. Big hit singles eluded them, but they developed a strong following that appreciated their unwavering dedication to releasing relatable and mature R&B. Throughout their career, Dantzler and Graydon co-wrote most of their songs, which were rooted in traditional soul and gospel. They incorporated nuanced contemporary sounds with help from co-producers...
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In This Life Together, Kindred the Family Soul
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