When this debut album was recorded and released in its homeland, pioneering U.K.
When this debut album was recorded and released in its homeland, pioneering U.K. garage act Artful Dodger was a duo, comprising Mark Hill and Pete Devereux. Earlier this year, Devereux ended his musical partnership with Hill to pursue his DJ career, leaving songwriter/ producer Hill—who helmed Craig David's award-winning debut album, Born to Do It (and who is collaborating with David on his follow-up, due next year)—to carry the Artful Dodger banner solo. All of which doesn't—and shouldn't—tarnish It's All About the Stragglers, which is one R&B-conscious, club-rooted, classically arranged album. American fans of the decidedly British 2-step sound (or garage as it's also labeled) have already embraced the set's U.K. crossover hits, including the David-fronted "Re-Rewind," "Think About Me" (featuring Michelle Escoffery), and "Twentyfourseven" (with All Saints' Melanie Blatt). But there's more good stuff where these came from. The string-laden "I Can't Give It Up" and the hip-hop-fueled "R U Ready" featuring, respectively, Nadia and MC Alistair, are as dancefloor-ready as they are radio-friendly. Fans of David take note: In addition to "Re-Rewind," the British sensation appears on "Woman Trouble" and "What Ya Gonna Do?"—MP