Jesse Boykin III is a special kind of soulful.  If you’ve ever heard Victoria from his 2008 album, The Beauty Created, you know the kind of multi-layered elegance that he comes with.  He is one of the few that can layer understandable but strongly poetic lyrics with smooth vocals and poignant production for something that pleases the ear but doesn’t necessarily fit a mold, creating something uniquely him.

And now he’s giving it away for free.

Bartholomew is not a collection of half-measures; this compares favorably with any other album in his discography.  Boykins takes his brand of soul to another level by removing some of the smoothed-out extras from the production in many places in favor of a more tribal, elemental sound.  It still manages to be smooth, but it’s due almost entirely to the vocals of those featured and Boykins himself.

And this is also a star-studded set when it comes to features and production.  Between songs that feature Dej Loaf, Melanie Fiona, Luke James, Audiopush, and Bridgett Kelly (just to name a few) and production that features K. Roosevelt, Leon Thomas III, MeLo-X, and Dot da Genius (just to name a few more), you would think this would sound like a chaotic mess.  Instead, what you get is a coherent and cohesive album that flows from one distinctive song to another without leaving the listener feeling like they’re lurching uncontrollably through someone’s thoughts.

Lyrically, this offers a little something for everyone.  All the tracks have poetic bent to them, but songs like Earth Girls and Everybody Shut Up are more straightforward than tracks like LARain and Vegetables.  The fact that set seems to build its metaphorical well as it progresses means that it takes the listener along instead of leaving them to flail in a sea of words.  On an already well-crafted album, it puts the icing on the cake.

Our favorite tracks are Into YouSolar Sisters, Mean Girls, and Eye of the Gentle Tiger.

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