Gil Scott-Heron, "I'm New Here"

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Since the release of his last album, "Spirits," in 1994, hip-hop pioneer Gil Scott-Heron has struggled with drug addiction and prison. The neo-soul shimmer of his 1970 recordings may be absent on his latest release, "I'm New Here," but it's replaced by a dark candor that carries the weight of his 60 years. Scott-Heron's raspy voice cries over a throbbing beat on the Robert Johnson cover "Me and the Devil," while the title track touches on hope for redemption ("No matter how far wrong you've gone, you can always turn around"). Rhythmic slam delivery over a minimalist industrial beat weaves a gray tapestry of city life on "Your Soul and Mine," and "On Coming From a Broken Home" is a touching tribute to the grandmother who raised him. Reflective but never bitter, "I'm New Here" contains the musings of a poet wizened by hard luck.-Connor McKnight