Devon Gilfillian (Capitol)
Newcomer Devon Gilfillian has arrived with full-length “retro-modern" debut Black Hole Rainbow, the work catapulting Gilfillian’s deep understanding of Soul at full-force into the present. Employing a velvet delivery to meaningful songwriting and sonic exploration, Gilfillian moves beyond the old-is-new-again trend and in to his own unchartered intergalactic territory.
Black Hole Rainbow covers quite a bit of content ground. There are the ups and downs of finding then losing love chronicled in “Start It Up,” “Thank Me Later,” and “Full Disclosure,” social commentary on community in “The Good Life,” and personal responsibility with “Get Out and Get It.” Then there’s the empowerment anthem “Unchained” which probably sums up the whole most completely as it’s evocative of a relentless positivity coloring everything in Gilfillian’s world. “I love songs that are honest about heartbreak, and I wanted the human connection that comes from vulnerability to be a big part of this record,” Gilfillian explains. This is present in Gilfillian’s voice at all turns marking it a comfortable place to weather any storm.
In order to have the album present a retro sound for modern times, Gilfillian and the band spent their first studio time with producer Shawn Everett recording their instrumentals directly to tape they then transferred to vinyl before uploading to Pro Tools from there. This deliberate method allowed for experimental sonic expressions to play out on top generating a freshness that can be elusive on newer versions of older sounds. Gilfillian adds, “There were no creative boundaries at all… Our biggest goal was to think outside the box and ask ourselves what kind of sounds we wanted to make. I wanted to prove that I could record in a retro-style but to also use newer techniques to really bust open the box.”
Black Hole Rainbow confirms the accomplishment of treading in the past while creating new sounds and expressions that fit like they were there all along just awaiting discovery. “Unchained” is also enjoying a top-three Triple A spin count so far for 2020, it’s uplift perfect for the times. “Coming from the Americana/Blues/R&B scene, I now feel the world is my oyster and that I can go into any world that I want,” Gilfillian says, and he undoubtedly will.
Photo by Andile Buka