Soul music -- that is, R&B as we knew it in the '60s and '70s -- is a term one usually hears in connection with the Baby Boomer generation. But in the '90s and early 2000s, neo-soul favorites like Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, and Lauryn Hill, demonstrated that one didn't have to be a Baby Boomer to have a soul outlook. Their soul isn't totally retro the way that Virginia soul/ rock goddess Mary Ann Redmond is retro, but they have successfully combined a strong appreciation of classic-'60s and-'70s R&B with urban contemporary and hip-hop considerations. And that neo-soul market is obviously Nicci Gilbert's main target on Grown Folks Music, the former Brownstone singer's first solo album. This CD is far from a carbon copy of Gilbert's work with Brownstone; most of the material is closer to Blige, Hill, Syleena Johnson, or Alicia Keyes. And when you consider that Grown Folks Music was recorded for MCA -- home of Blige, Jaguar Wright, and Rahsaan Patterson in the early 2000s -- it isn't surprising that Gilbert's solo debut would have such a neo-soul outlook. Occasionally, she gets into uptempo, hip-hop-drenched club jams; "Headlights" is full of the sort of Dirty South moves that African-American clubs in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee were eating up in the '90s and early 2000s. But 90% of the time, Grown Folks Music is quite mindful of classic soul, and Gilbert wears her neo-soul clothing nicely on slow jams like the dreamy "Summer," the Isley Brothers-influenced "I Got It Bad," and the single "My Side of the Story." Most of the tracks are decent, and a few of them are even excellent. All things considered, this is a promising, if imperfect, solo debut for the former Brownstone member.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson