The music of Rhian Benson is an exciting mélange of R&B, soul, jazz, reggae, hip-hop, and worldbeat. Her debut recording titled Gold Coast features the stunning vocalist interpreting 13 songs that she wrote and co-produced with James Poyser (Lauryn Hill, the Roots, Jill Scott) and Bob Power (D'Angelo, A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu). Her warm, jazz-influenced vocals are a natural result of her strong musical heritage (both of her parents are musicians) and by being nourished and encouraged by the profusion of music and musicians that surrounded her during her upbringing in Africa, India, and England. Gold Coast opens with "Words Hurt Too," a sad ballad about the insensitive remarks that can cause a great relationship to go wrong. Benson's sensitive interpretation captures the essence of heartbreak through her use of earthy blue notes and elongated rhythmic phrasings. Her voice is so unfeigned, and her lyrics are so heartfelt. On "The One," you can literally feel the sincerity in her voice as she asks "are you the one?" Benson also makes her listeners aware of her exceptional songwriting skills. Her creative use of metaphors makes her songs extremely simpatico especially on such songs as "Stealing My Peace of Mind,""Invincible," and "Gold Sky." Benson closes the set with "Spirit," a peaceful Ashanti ballad that delivers a sense of serenity, encouragement, and assurance to those seeking their way in life. Her voice is calm and assuring as she sings in the Ghanaian language over soft guitar chords and emotional string arrangements. Joined by a plethora of world-class musicians including Roy Hargrove on horns, Ndugu Chancler on drums, Alphonso Johnson on acoustic bass, and many others, Benson has brought an uncomplicated innocence and freedom from pretense to her music that should continue to attract a multitude of fans in the years ahead.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein