Mutlu Onaral is an artist that transcends his era, yet he still doesn’t get the fanfare he deserves in mainstream. His songs balance a straightforward accessible lyrical quality with gorgeously soulful vocals and enough musical complexity to stave off listener fatigue. I first bumped into Mutlu on Daryl Hall’s acclaimed, award winning TV show “Live From Daryl’s House”, and since then his vocals, talent for songwriting, and musicianship continues to grow and only adds depth to the soul of his craft. Honestly, give Mutlu’s a listen a couple times and you’ll find yourself mentally jamming to his music throughout your day. A Philadelphia native and first generation American of Turkish decent, Mutlu combines his innate Philly soul style with elements of folk, reggae and rock. He has toured, supported ans/or shared the same stages with artists such Daryl Hall & John Oates, Amos Lee, Adele, Katy Perry, John Hiatt, Leon Russell, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Todd Rundgren, Shuggie Otis & many more.
Mutlu’s 2008 debut album “Livin’ It”, produced by the late T-Bone Wolk, featured guest appearances by Daryl Hall, Amos Lee, G. Love and Raheem DeVaughn. Now six EP’s later, the Philly singer-songwriter who has been performing and writing since his teens, has dropped his latest 7 track project – “Good Trouble”– which he co-produced with Darius Amedolia. The recording was mixed and mastered by Grammy winning producer/engineer Phil Nicolod.
The album is a joy to listen to. The first song, “Lifeline” is just folky and soulful enough to set the stage for a powerful narrative that looks at a divided society plagued by injustice and inequity. The following rock-reggae song, “Not Escapable”, again looks across the pitiful great divide within the current political situation.
The musicianship is solid and elegant but layered to a complexity that allows a new discovery with each listen. Mutlu’s vocal work has a crystal-like inflexion that comforts alongside the acoustic guitar embellishment, but does not lack the power to really rock out when the song calls for it.
The songs flow seamlessly and follow the idea of rollercoaster construction. Each song enhances the rollercoaster effect, and leaves the listener excited to loop the album. Next up comes the razor-sharp rhythm and groove of “95 to 5”, which accompanies the inspiring lyrics – the skill and catchiness of the track may see it making a big buzz.
“Scarred”, a soft and sumptuous acoustic-guitar driven ballad, showcases Mutlu’s characteristic heartfelt croon. “Nothing in this Whole Wide World” (ft. John Oates) delivers the classic Philly soul sound. It reeks of the kind of mindfulness that comes with being at peace with oneself.
The upbeat melodic wash of “Work For It” has plenty of musical and lyrical muscle, with guitars and vocals that just soar, fade and reappear, like things of beauty. There is something about Mutlu’s voice that just resonates more in the stripped-down songs, so when the album closer, “Oh My Girl”, comes in strummed slowly, the track carves a long sweeping path to my heart.
Mutlu’s distinctive vocals have always been a feature of all his music, but this record seems to be even more ambitious in this regard. Mutlu is on a musical odyssey and this album is some trip. “Good Trouble” is so well crafted and honest, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The good news that in addition to the album release, Mutlu also began his solo tour on August 9th in Knoxville, TN. The tour includes stops in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Durham, Western Mass, and at Daryl Hall’s venue in upstate New York.