It's hard not to admire the gall of someone who can call their self-produced debut record The Headphone Masterpiece. But Cody ChesnuTT's debut wasn't just a genre-defying burst of DIY soul, it lived up to it's audacious title. Recorded on just a 4-track cassette, The Headphone Masterpiece was a lovingly handmade and charmingly self-indulgent double CD. Cody Chesnutt flirted with fame when he reworked “The Seed” into “The Seed 2.0” with The Roots, but has largely disappeared from the public eye in the decade since. His latest record (only his second full length) may lack the unwieldy ambition of his debut, but Landing On A Hundred still slays in all the right ways.
The lo-fi and boundary-challenging roughness of his debut is gone, replaced by the impeccable tone of Royal Studios (the studio where Al Green cut some of his best records). Where The Headphone Masterpiece was all scattershot ambition, Landing On A Hundrednarrows it's sight to soul's golden age. Cody ChesnuTT gets all the notes right on the sound. From the sultry back-up vocals to the muted trumpet sulking in the distance to the giant waves of strinsg, it's clear that ChesnuTT is paying homage to soul's greats. But all of this would be a meaningless genre exercise if ChessnuTT didn't bring his A game on the songwriting too.
Thankfully ChesnuTT's songwriting on the record is catchy, smart, and infectious. It's clear that the success of The Headphone Masterpiece is on his mind with songs like “Under the Spell of the Handout” where ChesnuTT contemplates the limits of his artistic integrity. Elsewhere ChesnuTT sings about African Diaspora on bangers like “I've Been Life” and “Scroll Call.” There's not a bad song in the bunch, and his lyrics remain as deep as ever. So what if he's not pushing any boundaries sonically on this one? How can you complain when you have one of the best soul records in years (maybe decades) seducing your ears?
Landing On A Hundred is available wherever good music is sold. Buy it now on iTunes.
- Words by Nathan Leigh