Curtis Harding’s ability to write great songs and belt out soulful vocals found him going from a CeeLo Green collaborator to an internationally touring solo artist. A talent of his caliber would’ve made it at some point in the digital age, but a stacked resume (he wrote the song “Grand Canyon” for Green) and the jaw-dropping authenticity and quality of his 2014 LP Soul Power fast-tracked Harding to an enviable spot among modern soul singers.
Sophomore album Face Your Fear (Anti- Records, making him label mates with Mavis Staples!) picks up where Harding’s debut left off, with “Wednesday Morning Atonement” cramming a week-long revival’s soulful singing and gospel fervor into a four-and-a-half-minute song.
From there, the album crosses more soul intersections than just the gospel roots crossroad. Harding’s updated take on classic soul gets sprinkled with orchestral pop (the title track and “As I Am”), trippy funk (“Go As You Are” and “Dream Girl”) and a broader pastiche of retro sounds à la April March (“Till the End”).
Harding really nails it out of the park when honing in on the sound and style of vintage soul superstars with full band accompaniment, including backup singers and a horn section. He goes this route on “On and On.” Such a derivative approach is dangerous ground for some artists, who succumb to copying the past too much instead of presenting their fresh ideas as a homage to a certain sound or time period. Of course, Harding mastered his creative process of tipping a hat to past greats while writing currently relevant songs long before entering the studio to record Face Your Fear.
Harding celebrates classic soul music while pouring his own heart and soul into each song. That statement rings true whether he’s commandeering the mic while a full ensemble wails away, or if he’s leading the album down a less predictable path.
Face Your Fear