EASY LISTENING: The soulful crooner's long-anticipated debut was worth the wait.
Nearly five years have elapsed since young medic and former UWI Singers tenor Mario Evon Guthrie decided to pick up the mic in pursuit of a bonafide recording career. In no time he shot to solo stardom on the indie scene, blending the earthy sensibilities of versatile balladeers like Maxwell and Jimmy Cozier with his own easy-listening reggae-soul stylings, as he fashioned a career that’s now positioned him among the contemporary Jamaican crooners who matter.
A satisfying 11-track sample of Evon’s artistic journey so far, Reggae-Soul Volume 1 M.E on Love, his just-released debut disc, yields a radio-ready mix of evocative songwriting and melody-making. Surprisingly, it features production work by only a handful of collaborators and a lone guest appearance, courtesy of Shaq the MC.
If there’s a single conclusion to be drawn, it’s that Mario Evon has become, by all accounts, a soldier of love. On the creamy highlight “Never Let You Know”, for instance, he makes like a student from the D’Angelo and Maxi Priest school. His earnest delivery buoys up “Love In Di Mawnin” and his soulfulness peaks at all the right moments on cuts like the breezy “Whip Appeal” and the straight-from-the-heart testimony “Puppet on a String.”
Like so many before him, Mario faced countless challenges when he was just starting out as a solo act in the biz, but in interviews with TALLAWAH he always expressed a determination to release a solid first album that would, by and large, officially introduce his sound and identity to the world. I’d say mission accomplished.
And it’s that kind of unyielding optimism that distinguishes the most successful artists of the day from everybody else. That Mario has courageously opted to dedicate his entire record to exploring ideas of intimacy, relationship dynamics and being a warrior for love makes him, quite admirably, both a lover and a fighter. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+
> KEY TRACKS: “Never Let You Know,” “Soul Tek” and “This Day”