Delra Harris – HMAI – Singles/Album Sampler Review
Interesting mix of Soul, R&B, Gospel & faith-based music from singer/songwriter Delra Harris…believe it or not, we’ve got nine tracks from his new record HMAI in review today and that’s just a tiny bit over the halfway-mark of the seventeen-track epic he’s just released. That’s a hefty version of an album-sampler, also a weighty number for a full album when it comes right down to it; I came to the conclusion that there must be something important for Delra to be communicating to us all if he’s got this much music on his new record. Turns out, it might have more to do with him having been away for a while.
Because it’s certainly not anything to do with whether he has or hasn’t put in the work – Delra Harris was on a massive creative streak between 2008-2013, releasing nearly an album a year during that period of time…around then, he was outworking pretty much everyone in every genre out there at that rate. Then from what I can see, he’s put out a few singles since but mostly been silent in comparison to the rest of his timeline before 2013…it’s been nearly four years now since Delra’s been keeping the people waiting for those next tunes. In that context, he’s back just in time…any more than four years in today’s world and people start sending out the search party to find you, assuming you’ve retired and get ready to start pitching the comeback record. There’s not a timeline out there that’s not self-imposed when it comes to our art ultimately, contracts or no-contracts, doesn’t matter…it’s still up to you on the pace you want to work at when it comes right down to it…and as an artist, sometimes it takes time to get the perspective you need for that next project or time to express what you want to express as right as you possibly can. Taking a timeout can be a natural occurrence in an artist’s overall timeline…quality takes time right? Bottom line is that Delra is back just in time to beat the buzzer and remind the people he’s still out there as he continues on the journey he’s set upon into the next chapter – the new album, HMAI released this year in August of 2017.
In the half of the album we received, we’ve got quite a few from the first-half of the record. Our sample starts with “Stop Stressin,” and Delra begins to put out the message and subtly incorporate His word into the music, keeping it sounding current with the modern day approach to club-style R&B. Delra’s vocals sound decent right away, smoothly heading into the verse & chorus with effects & layers of backing-vocals to thicken the atmosphere. A solid track that naturally questions life itself as Delra reminds himself to “Stop Stressin” and let life be as it should be…you get a good dose of insightful emotion through both his words and performance on this cut. Some of those moments where he sings “I need a way out” are so heartbreakingly honest & real they’ll likely bring tears to the eyes…but before they’ll have a chance to form & fall to the ground, he’ll jump back into the main hooks of the chorus to add that comforting reminder to “Stop Stressin” and everything levels-out emotionally with real balance. Delra definitely makes his talent & skills known & noticeable…the music is minimalist in style and it’s ultimately up to him to make this track work through the melody in his vocals; 99% of the time, I’m loving the sound. There’s a couple high-up notes that almost seemed to catch him off-guard in his approach just past the two-minute mark, which was almost strange given that only seconds later, he’ll reach even higher in tone with complete success…for the most part, his voice is right where he’d want it to be on “Stop Stressin” and it all sounds right in-line with the energy and concept.
“Get Right” furthered the ideas and messages put forth on “Stop Stressin” and took the record to the next-level in the process. Delra sounds all-the-way fantastic on this cut…vibrant, honest & real – I think that’s what I’m liking perhaps the most about his music when it comes right down to it. You gotta remember, I’m a guy outside of faith-based-anything – but the reality is, I’m more than happy to listen to this and can often relate to what he’s singing about. It’s certainly not like I’ve never contemplated the issue, and I was raised with religious influence; above all things, I think it’s important to at the very least admit that it’s not always the easiest line to walk in life when it comes to communicating to those of us outside of the gospel…and one of Delra’s biggest assets is how well he details the struggle in a song like “Get Right.” You certainly understand his intentions…you definitely understand the man he wants to be…and like all of us, Delra is a REAL person – as dedicated, good or pure as any of us would want to be, with the curveballs that life can throw at us, it’s always tough to stay true to our virtues, as hard as we try. Life tests our conviction…”Get Right” details perfectly the genuine WANT to be the better person and how difficult it can still be to BE that person, even with all the right intentions and faith in place. What “Get Right” communicates to us more than anything else, is just how important it is for Delra to “Get Right” with his relationship to God and resolve any issues in effort to move forward and be happy with the man he’s become. Really interesting song when it comes right down to it, set to a chill beat with some really rad guitar-tones in the mix and a solid verse supplied by featured guest D-Real that lights-up the middle with a burst of character and adds more weight to the lyrical-determination of “Get Right” & their pursuit to right the wrongs. Delra has highlight moments that are absolutely awesome past the three-minute mark & before three-thirty…he lets those vocals loose with a real rasp in the tone of his voice & it sounds fantastic.
Delra continues to gain confidence in the music & sound of his vocals, even at his most questioning moments like on “Nothing Out There 4 Me” – which was another real highlight early on in HMAI. I honestly think it’s bold, impressive and real…that’s how I’d describe Delra’s music if someone was to ask me. “Nothing Out There 4 Me” is startlingly authentic; the contrast of how chill the sound of the music is while he’s going through a detailed personal struggle to maintain his path…it’s got great depth to it. The more emotion and power than Delra puts into his vocals, the better the results it seems…he sounds sincere, raw, vulnerable yet determined on “Nothing Out There 4 Me” – and the structure of this cut is one of the most dynamic on the record to support him as he transitions between the energy in the song’s verse & chorus. It also has an excellent build-up to the tune’s final moments where Delra turns up the heat and lets loose some of his most passionate vocals on the album…the man can sing, there’s no doubt about that whatsoever by the time “Nothing Out There 4 Me” is done.
And there is something out there 4 him…it’s approximately half the planet’s worth of people that are looking for a champion in faith-based music that they can truly relate to. Delra makes his experiences completely relatable & real through his words and the way he adds emotion into his microphone – there are tons of people out there that struggle with many of the same things that Delra has commented on throughout HMAI so far…I think many would find this music to be incredibly comforting to the soul. Just knowing there’s someone else out there thinking the same things we are or experiencing the same difficulties can often lead to a real unity…that feeling that we’re not alone in our thoughts…and I think that Delra Harris can potentially go from questioning his place to finding himself in a leadership role, speaking out for the people that need a strong voice to help lift them up & out of their troubles. A song like “Walk With Me Lord (Another 1 For Mom)” is the kind of song that people are going to hear at the time they need it most…and it could potentially make all the difference in the world. Delra isn’t here to just communicate the amazing benefits to finding religion – he’s approaching it through a much more realistic perspective that shows the humbleness & honesty of a man that wants to walk the right path, one that stumbles, one that falls…but most importantly, one that gets back up to keep on going. Songs like “Walk With Me Lord (Another 1 For Mom)” become genuinely inspiring to listen to based-on that extraordinary level of insight & honesty he applies to his writing. I think he’s got excellent hooks in this track throughout the verse, exceptional ones in the chorus and great work through the production & mix to make the background-vocals and backing-elements in the music continually stand-out in all the right ways. He can be gentle, he can be strong when he needs to be; Delra’s got a real gift for matching the intentions of his words with the power of his voice and “Walk With Me Lord (Another 1 For Mom)” is a mighty fine example of him using that gift to maximum effect. He’s quite honestly just as captivating outside of the written verses/choruses when he’s free-styling and adding to the beat as it plays towards the end…Delra keeps it entertaining from the beginning to end of his tunes…he’s focused on HMAI.
Lyrically, he’s got excellent things happening on “Stop Telling Me What To Do” that brings that degree of accessibility in the message to an even more universal place. Up-tempo and vibrant with a bit more punch to the energy and vibe, “Stop Telling Me What To Do” is a track that people can seriously relate to and really turn up as their personal anthem of empowerment. Who out there hasn’t experienced someone telling them NO in some way, shape or form? We all have. Delra encourages the freedom of expression here and pushes back against the restraints of convention, explaining his side of the story powerfully while reminding you that his own faith is unbreakable, no matter what’s happening in his life. It’s almost another way of saying ‘leave me alone, I’m doin’ just fine thank-you very much’ when Delra is singing “Stop Telling Me What To Do” – and you can hear by the strength of his voice that he truly is just fine and ultimately comfortable with how he expresses and commits to his faith. So like I was saying before…I agree…stop telling him what to do and perhaps let Delra lead the way for a bit…he’s got a good head on his shoulders – and after listening to his tunes, quite obviously, a huge heart to go with it. Inventive beat within a minimalist framework once again, brilliant additions from guest-star Ramzees throughout the entire song & great transitions in this tune to keep it vibrant & lively the whole time. Ultimately, it’s a tune that has tangibly uplifting & empowering emotion attached to it…and it translates straight to you as a listener through their combined performance on “Stop Telling Me What To Do.”
“Asphyxiation” is without a doubt one of the real highlights in this set of tunes from Delra Harris. Great in the verse, great in the chorus…the entire song flows along so smoothly while yet again detailing some of the toughest feelings & emotions that he’s experienced throughout his life. It’s an interesting approach overall when you think about it – some of Delra’s most accessible rhythms & grooves also have some of the most heartbreakingly real moments lyrically. I think the way he’s written his material really allows people to get right into the words as a result…and ultimately, I think that’s just as much of his reasoning to do what he does as his natural skills & ability are. Singing can come naturally to some of us out there…but singing the words that genuinely represent what we’re feeling inside our hearts & minds takes a different skill altogether; “Asphyxiation” is all the proof that you need that Delra isn’t just a performer or simple entertainer…his music has genuine depth with concepts & ideas that are just as thought-provoking as they are solid to listen to. I think the amount of melody he’s put into his approach…combined with the natural raw-tones of the lead & smooth layers of background vocals, “Asphyxiation” has Delra sounding at his most humble & sincere.
“Trust Me” could be a tougher one for people listening, depending on how they ‘hear’ it. You can listen to the song for the smart layout & structure that continues to build as it plays…you can listen to the expressive way that Delra sings this one…you can listen to the intention of the words. The hooks themselves run a bit deeper here…the kind of track that takes a spin or two to absorb fully; nothing wrong with that. As far as the actual words themselves go…perception will play a role for certain in the way people listen to this track…I have the idea in my head that he’s putting out God’s perspective here in the lyrics…other people could potentially perceive it as Delra writing about himself, or perhaps even speaking for God…”Trust Me” might come out debatably interpretative and polarizing for some. I think within the context of HMAI it makes sense and you know what Delra’s ultimately trying to express & say here…but if it was just a single song on its own, I’m not really sure what people might think about it truthfully. Definitely the kind of song I dig on…I like the potential for discussion here and the thought-provoking way he’s written this cut lyrically…polarizing is just fine – it’s indifference that you want to avoid. I don’t think anyone will be indifferent about this tune, I think if people really listen to this tune there’s a ton to discuss and talk about at the water-cooler on your break in the days & weeks to follow.
You see…it’s not just a clever narrative that I’ve cooked up to support my theories…Delra Harris proves that leadership potential I commented on earlier in “I’m Here.” This is where you can hear him audibly reaching out to connect to those that listen…represented perfectly by the character in guest-star Kimaya in a solid duet that continues to build strongly as it plays. There is comfort and strength in Delra’s words…and much of the pain & sorrow that he’s personally experienced & expressed in the songs we’ve heard so far on HMAI, he now seeks to help heal in others on “I’m Here.” This is where Delra transforms himself from his observational stance into an active role…and again, it’s tunes like “I’m Here” that are going to connect with a set of ears out there somewhere that truly need to hear words like these. Lyrically, it’s one of my favorites…not just because I fully believe it proves my theory on Delra’s potential, but because it’s written with insightful honesty and performed with real, powerful emotion from both of the song’s vocalists to bring these concepts vividly into the recording.
The last track I’ve got is arguably also the most single-worthy tune, a track called “Fallen Angel” featuring Mihailo Blagojevic. The beat on this cut is super-strong…still subtle in its sound as you’ve come to expect in the music of Delra Harris, but highly effective and powerful alongside the vocal-flow & rhythms that Harris has created here. Mixing in The Lord’s Prayer into the atmosphere was a masterstroke – a great touch in this final tune that really expands the idea beyond the music. The inclusion of gospel becomes even more noticeable here through the backing vocals and style of the sound of “Fallen Angel” – and even though it’s still minimalist in terms of the music, this whole track seems to move at a more noticeable pace & beat. Captivating stuff really…the atmosphere of “Fallen Angel” and its accenting piano-notes make for a really powerful listening experience and the vibrant approach to the energy of the vocal melodies end up bringing this tune right to the depths it needed to reach. Really incredible things happening in the vocals here…from the whispers in the background to the nearly opera-esque performance in the hook, it all shines brightly while giving you much to think about & feel along the way. Deep meanings, serious introspection and personal revelation all play a huge role on “Fallen Angel” – a diverse & versatile song that really leaves an impact and lasting impression.
I’ve had a better time listening to Delra Harris’ faith-based tunes than any other I can remember honestly. I think the degree of honesty you’ll find on this record separates him from pretty much every other artist in the entire genre…and I think ultimately, that’s what will connect with the people out there. I know it did with me…I might not exactly be heading out to pick up a bible to read any time soon, but I’m definitely listening to what Delra’s got to say. He’s a genuine communicator and a gifted songwriter…he pours real & raw emotion into his every moment that everyone can truly relate to.
Find out more about Delra Harris and have a listen to his music at his Reverbnation page: https://www.reverbnation.com/delraharris