Photo: Al Green and Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson
Photo credit: Ginny Suss
The title of Al Green’s Lay It Down truly tells it like it is. Conceived as a collaboration between the soul legend and a handful of gifted young admirers from the worlds of contemporary R&B and hip hop, the album is drawn from a series of inspired sessions that yielded the most high-spirited, funky and often lushly romantic songs of Green’s latter-day career. The album is a refreshingly old school jam, with everyone laying down the music together, face to face, heart to heart, soul to soul.
Al admits, “That’s the only way I know how to work, that’s what I’ve done all my life. You just write it from here.” He taps his heart. “That’s what we do every Sunday. We never write a sermon now. If you can’t preach out of here”–tapping his chest again–“you have nothing to say anyway. It’s all from the heart, this whole album, from start to finish.”
The project features the sophisticated R&B voices of singer-songwriters John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and Corinne Bailey Rae, and it was co-produced with Green by two of hip-hop’s most innovative players, drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson from the Roots and keyboardist James Poyser, the go-to guy for high-profile artists ranging from Erykah Badu to Common. Add in Brooklyn’s celebrated Dap-King Horns (Sharon Jones, Amy Winehouse), guitarist Chalmers “Spanky” Alford (Mighty Clouds of Joy, Joss Stone) and bassist Adam Blackstone (Jill Scott, DJ Jazzy Jeff), among others, and you’ve got a modern soul-music dream team, fronted by the most expressive voice in the business.
Link to footage from the making of Lay It Down (WINDOWS):