Being the daughter of blues legend Taj Mahal and having a name that is pronounced ‘diva’, a career on the stage was surely inevitable for Deva Mahal. On her debut album Run Deep she combines a love for classic and contemporary soul music into uplifting anthems of empowerment.
The album opens with Can’t Call it Love, a rocky soul stomper. You need to show me R.E.S.P.E.C.T she sings, channeling some Aretha vibes in her music and attitude. Snakes is a warning song, reminding us that that the world is mean sometimes. With its upbeat tone and brass section, this song is a modern take on the Daptone classic soul style.
Fire is a beautiful slow building lament for anyone whose ever felt hopeless. I can’t go any further, she cries but by the end of the song she’s sung her way back to life. Shards is a powerful piano ballad about the violent aftermath of heartbreak. You shot my heart, she breathes in the opening line. The structure and feel of this song and tracks like It’s Down to You echo some of Adele’s style, and Mahal’s vocal power is equally as impressive as the queen of ballads herself.
Still it’s not all suffering and pain on this album. On the title track Run Deep she sings to encourage herself, she’s ready for battle no matter what gets in her way. Even if people try to break you down you have to rise above and listen to yourself. The added rap from Coco Peil makes the whole thing fly.
Turnt Up is a tale of lust ‘I didn’t come here to think’ she purrs, with the help of Allen Stone. This is a slow jam worth savouring. And on Optimist she tries to fight back against the heartbreak elsewhere. I believe in love, she sings hoping to bring it to reality with the power of positive thinking and funky beats.
Take A Giant Step is a cover of a song by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, which was recorded by her father in 1968. It fits seamlessly on an album which is about overcoming heartache, asserting yourself and trying to ‘leave yesterday behind’.
Run Deep is a confident and commanding collection of songs from a natural vocal talent. Deva Mahal might sing about taking the road less traveled but, on this evidence, her destination is sure to be a good one.