Like many of today's soul men, Raúl Midón owes a huge debt to Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, and this newcomer pays up right away. Midón, working with Hathaway's former producer Arif Mardin throughout, dedicates one song ("Sittin' in the Middle") to that late singer and shows love for Wonder by recruiting him to play harmonica on another ("Expressions of Love"). There's more than idol worship, though, to this, one of the year's most exciting debuts. Midón—who, like Wonder, is blind—is the real deal. A New Mexico-born singer-guitarist of African-American and Argentinean descent, Midón is an electric adventurist, drawing from pop, jazz, reggae, Latin, Afro-Cuban as well as '70s R&B influences. His remarkable voice is just as versatile; it's an elastic instrument that boasts the warm, rich timbre of Wonder and Hathaway, a spine-tingling falsetto and an uncanny ability to mimic a trumpet on cuts like the upbeat title tune (one of many tracks that reflect Midón's positive outlook). And his fluid yet fervent acoustic-guitar work—schooled in the flamenco, jazz and classical traditions—is mind-blowing. —C.A.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "State of Mind"