From the desk of Ru Johnson
The album starts with a general’s drum, commanding your attention before we’re softened by a warm toned horn. This is done on purpose you see, because you’re meant to listen intently, enjoy the ride free from distractions or other forms of entertainment. More importantly “Better Angels” is asking you to think and remember where we are and who we are. Erica Papillion-Posey takes us there through vibes and sounds.
“Be Beautiful” is a calling, a laying down of burdens from the workings of the world. In particular this resonates for black women who have shouldered so much of life in general. The operatic rendition of “Pour mon Ame”, coupled with a laconic horn and steady drum…everything listens like a sound track. The pace of the album picks up with ‘I Treble,” a beautiful surrender to sound and natural rhythm. Musically the composition of this all-star cast of players acts as a living, breathing entity, sometimes sleepily following Papillion-Posey’s vocals down winding tales of love and woe (“My Heart My Ache”) and at other times setting a quick and rhythmic pace (“Magna Ms”).
On a technical level, Papillion-Posey is pitch perfect and vocally diverse. She covers notes all along the spectrum with maddening ease and seems to blend her very aura into each phrase. It sounds to easy to refer to this as Jazz, because there are elements of African drums twisting songs to their endings and “At the Gates” could be a wailing blues tune, a slave dirge or a contemporary gospel track.
If that’s not enough, Papillion-Posey does all of her own harmonies and ad-libs so it’s really multiple energies telling these stories. It’s pretty and it’s impressive. If you’ve ever met Erica Papillion-Posey, there’s no surprise that she beseeches all in her presence to seek their ‘Better Angels.” There’s an authenticity to her work, these songs are crafted with intention, the vocals well-thought out and all who have touched this piece have done so with intention. Standing at exactly one hour, Better Angels is a delectable offering.