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New CDs arrow Callins, Pee Wee

Callins, Pee Wee
Callins, Pee Wee |

Street Soul (2005)*

Price: $3.99


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The name Beatmart has been around for a long time, whether referring to beatmeister Todd Collins's production company—a successful enterprise that brought us hot tracks from John Reuben, KJ-52, GRITS, and Out of Eden, among others—or to the not-so-successful record label that had a couple of false starts at its inception. Beatmart is now back with a vengeance with Street Soul, the inaugural offering from debut R&B/soul crooner Pee Wee Callins.
Former Gotee brother Todd Collins has always been a crusader for all types of urban music, so it's not surprising he gave Callins a wide range of soundtracks to sing along to. The vocalist shines the brightest when he's gliding atop '70s R&B, such as in the blissful ‘I Choose Love,’ a heavenly mid-tempo number that seems borrowed straight from Marvin Gaye's What's Going On vault. He also channels Stevie Wonder in the wonderful ‘Keep Hope Alive,’ a steady jam accented with subtle orchestration and funk guitars. But he's not all about nostalgia, sounding reassured in the more contemporary selections such as in the P. Diddy-styled ‘I Need You,’ the smooth rider ‘Free,’ and ‘Better Life,’ which sounds like Monica's ‘U Should've Known Better’ sung with R. Kelly vocalizations.
Callins is not your typical R&B heartthrob, however, eschewing slinky pop ornaments and shallow sentimentalism in favor of themes of filial affection, redemption, and God-sanctioned love. He sounds best when he keeps it cool and refined, which would explain why the experiment falters a bit when the Collins/Callins duo tries its hand at lightheartedness in the embarrassingly corny ‘Party.’ Those, and the fact that Street Soul is perhaps a bit too soulful, are the only factors that deflate an otherwise fine debut, a breath of fresh air amidst the suburban excesses common in much of today's Christian music.
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