Picks and Pans Review: Goapele

updated 01/16/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

Change It All

Her name (pronounced GWA-pa-lay) means “to move forward” in the South African language of Setswana. And like other neo-soul songstresses such as India. Arie and Jill Scott, this Oakland, Calif., artist is interested in making a difference. “I've been waiting restlessly for the words to a song to change it all,” Goapele sings on her sophomore album's politically conscious title track, which was inspired by her frustration after the 2004 presidential election and delivers its message in a smooth, jazz-kissed style. On the uplifting, uptempo “Find a Way,” she encourages people to “start new today” over a gospel-infused groove complete with churchy organ and hand claps. With Goapele's light, silky touch, though, things never get too heavy-handed. She balances the righteousness with plenty of romance on songs like the gently funky “First Love” and the sweet confession “Crushed Out,” both of which showcase her supple, understated delivery. And Goapele expands beyond traditional R&B horizons with a little help from writer-producer Linda Perry on the Pink Floyd-inspired ballad “Darker Side of the Moon.”

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