Jonathan Butler, "So Strong"

80 Billboard Rating

Jonathan Butler's 15th album, "So Strong," signals the South African native's first urban record in several years. Its jaunty fusion of R&B, gospel, jazz and Latin rhythms provides a fitting accompaniment to a theme throughout the album's vocal and instrumental tracks that celebrates life. Leading the parade is "So Strong." Opening with an energetic, syncopated dance beat--complemented by Butler's distinctive guitar riffs and silky-smooth tenor--the song is reminiscent of the material issued by younger contemporaries like John Legend. Butler focuses on the spiritual with "You Got to Believe in Something," a mellow groove underscored by warm backing vocals and joyous horns. He gets down to basics on "Be Here With You," a passionate duet with soulstress Angie Stone, and brings a different nuance to his retooling of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now." Additional guests include smooth jazz musicians Rick Braun and Dave Koz.

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