“Natural” seems the perfect title for the new album from one of the UK’s most gifted and enduring urban music talents DON-E, for whom writing, producing and performing comes naturally. DJs are already rushing to spin key tracks like ‘Addictive Love’ and ‘Stay A While’.
There are some stand-out duets, including ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ with Keisha Buchanan of the Sugababes, for whom Don wrote songs back in the day, and ‘Like I Like It’ with Kele Le Roc. The album closes with a stunning ballad duet on ‘The Time Is Now’ with ex-Sugababe Mutya Buena.
He recalls: “I was involved with the Sugababes from the very beginning of the group, and produced a lot of their initial demos at my studio in Brixton, working with Ron-Tom from Metamorphosis, who put the three girls together. It’s great, now they’re all grown up and successful, that I got to work with Keisha and Mutya on my new project.”
‘So Cold’ features Don-e on vocals and keys, Stuart Zender, ex- Jamiroquai, on guitar and drums, and a guest cameo on Fender Rhodes keyboard from D’Angelo.
Don-e recalls:“Stuart and I hooked up as Azure in the late Nineties, recorded some tracks at Electric Ladyland in New York, then did some more in London at Eastcote Studios. “So Cold” was one of the tracks from those sessions. D’Angelo was in town, passed by the studio to chill, heard the track and said he’d jump on it.
“Copies of this track leaked out years later, bootlegs or whatever, and everyone thought it was a D’Angelo track, so I felt it was time to put the record straight by including it on the new album”.
Also generating a lot of excitement is the slow-jam version of the Bob Marley classic ‘Waiting In Vain’. TV talent shows get the Don-e treatment on ‘(You Ain’t No Good) Get Off’, which tells it like it is.
Don-e is a perfect product of his environment rooted in the heart of Brixton, the busy multicultural London suburb where he has built his own studio and has absorbed the diversity and wealth of musical influences of the street.
In recent years he has been focusing primarily on writing and producing for other artists, among them Shaun Escoffery, Mica Paris, Beverley Knight, Lynden David Hall, Omar, Grace Jones, Avani and Rahsaan Patterson.
Don-e has toured in the US guesting with Omar, and has also played a number of live dates with Grace Jones. As a headliner he has enjoyed getting in front of club audiences.
Following his father’s gift of a home made guitar on his fifth birthday, Don-e became hooked at an early age. Several years - and instruments -later he stepped out of school straight into the UK music scene. He was influenced by his parents’ collection of gospel and classic soul legends Aretha, Marvin, Stevie, Sly, Curtis and Donny Hathaway. He also listened to Parliament, Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire but he soon found there were other influences available in the music of Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott. All around him were the sounds of Reggae, Dub, Lover’s Rock, Jazz, Funk, Pop and then later Ragga, Jungle and Garage. He embraced all this and more, combining melodies, sounds and rhythms to create a style that would be identified as his own.
He signed to Island Records and released a remarkable debut album ‘Unbreakable’. Not only was he responsible for every song and arrangement, but virtually every instrument on the album was played by him. The album also featured the Top 20 hit ‘Love Makes The World Go Round’ and the now classic underground club and sound system smash ‘Unbreakable’
Having travelled and performed extensively internationally his unique “Ragga Funk” sound has caught the ear of not only emerging UK artists such as Shaun Escoffrey but also artists like D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill and Mos Def.
So here we are, back with a brand new album that is long overdue. For Don-e he is just “finishing the journey he has started”.
The wait has definitely been worthwhile. Don-e absorbs many influences that are refreshingly reflected in his maturity as a singer/songwriter on this new project.