Gil Scott-Heron mixes poetry and music

By Larissa Gula

Band: Gil Scott-Heron

Album: I’m New Here

Grade: B-

Record Label: XL… Band: Gil Scott-Heron

Album: I’m New Here

Grade: B-

Record Label: XL Recordings

Sounds Like: A blues singer at a poetry reading.

Poetry and music often go hand in hand. I’m New Here takes a poetry reading one step further and becomes a bold statement about the opinions of artist Gil Scott-Heron.

Best known as a spoken-word soul performer during the 1960s and 1970s, Scott-Heron had not released any albums in 13 years, and this not disappointing.

Scott-Heron’s deep and soulful voice contributes to the power of the issues he addresses in his songs. His style, instead of focusing on rhyme, focuses on power and meaning. And the rhyme he does make is a bonus to his presentation.The background music is simple yet powerful, drawing on the strongest points from hip-hop, blues and gospel music to create an eclectic combination that defines Scott-Heron’s unique style.

Keyboard and string instruments contribute toward a sense of impending drama. But Scott-Heron’s true power and emotion comes from the inflection and pace of the poetry, with the lyrics easily separating themselves from the music.

The album begins with “I Came From a Broken Home (Part 1),” explaining in vivid narrative forma history of giving and loss within a family. He creates an identity and a persona which he carries throughout the record.

Scott-Heron not only sings, but also inserts interlude tracks where he just speaks. With his deep voice and storytelling style, it’s hard not to feel like a child sitting and listening to grandpa.

I’m New Here ends with “I Came From a Broken Home (Part 2).” It sounds exactly the same as the opening track, but the words have changed as Scott-Heron explains why he is a man. The last 30 seconds of the album run without words, leaving the listener to take in what he has said.