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gepubliceerd op zondag 24 mei 2009

Review: Darien, "If These Walls Could Talk"

Darien starts his debut album "If These Walls Could Talk" with the encouragement to "Smile!". And that's exactly what I've done throughout the entire length of the album. Darien is a newcomer, not just in The Netherlands or in Europe, but also in his home country America. But I can tell he is a stayer as well.

Darien, 'If These Walls Could Talk'. Year: 2009 Darien, "If These Walls Could Talk". Year: 2009
I already noted Darien a few months ago. I wrote about the song "Holiday" and mentioned his - then - upcoming album "If These Walls Could Talk" in an article on this blog at the end of last year. I actually wrote that I hoped to add the album to my collection. Well, I'm happy to say that finally I have.

Let me start off with introducing the young man: Darien is an independent singer, songwriter and producer from Mount Vernon, New York.
The press kit tells of Darien's tales that are so rich and soulful you can envision every verse. I found this exceptionally true with the album's title track "If These Walls Could Talk", in which he paints the story of his mostly happy childhood: his mother, his college years, his first kiss and so on.
I was surprised to read of Darien's broad musical influences, mentioning greats like A Tribe Called Quest, Hall and Oates and Donny Hathaway. But I indeed found evidence to that in his music.
And it continues to mention his seductive and soothing melodies and some of the work Darien has done to date.

However, the press kit mentions Darien's voice only briefly. And this is curious, since his voice actually is his greatest asset. Its tone is warm and full of emotion, and its range is - indeed - phenomenal. At times, he reminds me of the young Stevie Wonder. And what is nice is that he does not show it off, but rather uses its abilities like an exceptional instrumentalist uses all possibilities of his instrument.

"If These Walls Could Talk" contains some great, polished, grown-up music. That doesn't mean it is overproduced though. It just sounds great. It is obvious that great care and attention was given to the album's sound and production. From its first tones on it's clear that this album is a product of Darien's love of music and language.
I lost my dad as a little boy
Momma, she had to 2 pairs of shoes to fill
Saved up her money, got her spirit right
Bought us a house up on a hill - New friends new
school, new way of life - Everything we once knew
had changed - But they say whateva don't break ya
Was sent to you to make ya - Stronger in the end
And we were never the same

- from the song "If These Walls Could Talk", music and lyrics by Darien
The song "Composure" kept singing around in my brain, much like a good wine sticks to a glass. It would be my favourite if this album wouldn't hold so many of those. Those background vocals are so smooth they can get you in a soulful mood all by themselves.
I love the horns in "Sail Thru" that give the song its almost eerie intermezzo. I've been missing the horns too much in contemporary music! This is one of those songs that make this album as soulful as it is.
"Love Revolution" also starts off with some great horns. They reminded me of the Dutch/Belgian jazz band Gare du Nord. In this song I guess the influence of the likes of Hall and Oates can be heard very clearly, with its sexy and subtle organ, driving rhythm, great chorus and strong bass line. Again: love the horns! This is a nicely crafted song!
"The Road" is one of the best showcases of Darien's exceptionally strong voice on the album. Wow!
"All Kinds Of Things" has a George-Benson-kinda-sound to it due to the guitar and the simple use of the organ. Its sound is nice and 'full'.
The song "If These Walls Could Talk" starts off with a simple acoustic guitar. It tells the story of Darien's life. This musical autobiography is one of the best songs on the album and certainly deserves to give it its name. You gotta love this song!

At this point though, the best has yet to come. Now, I do love a good blues song, but for someone as young as Darien to perform blues as good as he does takes some real talent. And this song, as far as I am concerned, is all the showcase I need to proof that he has just that. The 21st track on the record, with a total of 16 songs (see the track list below) is a blues song of great quality and soul. I was literally moved listening to "Whole Lotta Love", not just because of its musicality, but also because of the realization that great music is still made by great young musicians. Such a fine song! I almost can't stop hitting the repeat button.

This is the track list on Darien's album "If These Walls Could Talk":
  1. Just Can't Wait
  2. Gone
  3. Composure
  4. Where It's At
  5. Showya
  6. My Door
  7. Sail Thru
  8. Love Revolution
  9. The Road
  10. Nowhere
  11. WSRD 33.3 FM
  12. Saturday
  13. All Kinds Of Things
  14. If These Walls Could Talk
  15. Seasons
  16. Track 16 (4 sec)
  17. Track 17 (5 sec)
  18. Track 18 (5 sec)
  19. Track 19 (5 sec)
  20. Track 20 (4 sec)
  21. Whole Lotta Love

"If These Walls Could Talk" is not easy to label, but in the end I guess labeling it as 'r&b', 'soul' or 'nu-soul' would be right. What makes it dificult though is the fact that it's jazzy and bluesy as well and on top of that it has some obvious hip hop influences too.

Wouldn't it be great to see Darien at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands one of the coming years. I can definitely picture him there!

All in all, there are no lows on this album and quite a few highs. And that certainly is a big compliment to this young musician, whose love for music and talent for crafting imaginative lyrics offers a great addition to any music collection.

Oh, by the way Darien: I'm sure your father is proud. I would be!

Audio: listen to samples of all the songs on
Web: "If These Walls Could Talk" is published by the independent label Righteous Music Records
Audio: I found this audio interview with Darien (50 MB) at
Webshop: buy the album at

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