Sidewalk Chalk – Leaves (Album Review)

Sidewalk Chalk’s sophomore album is an interesting, 13 track journey into the collective-brain of an 8 member band. Sidewalk Chalk IS a band, one fit for 2014 and not the classical definition of such. They’re Hip Hop, paying homage to Dilla’s slick soulful sound with Rico Sisney on mic control. No trademark macho posturing stands in the way of lyrical introspection as topics range from acceptance, to integrity and humility over the course of the album. Although from Chicago, they’re not as gritty as NY’s Stet or The Roots from Philly, and often allow vocalist Maggie Vagle to steal the shine from the MC of the group. Oh yeah, they’ve got Soul. Live horns are prominent; masterfully weaving beautiful lines to introduce songs or give them depth. It’s hard to believe it’s just 2 pieces: a trombone and a trumpet, but they also double up on other wind instruments. The horns also bring to the forefront an element transparent in today’s musical sound bed…unless you’re listening to jazz. Yup, they’re Jazz too, with a tap dancer who provides an unconventional percussive element and so much character to the songs he’s featured on.

The album excels when Sidewalk Chalk exploits what makes them unique and intermingles their talents. Nashville is a perfect example as Maggie doubles her voice as a trumpet, briefly flirting with the keys and bassoon. Jumaane’s taps complement Rico’s flow and the track blossoms into powerful repeat worthy gem punctuated by a horn and keys duet to take you out. On the other hand, the dynamic feel of the album decreases when there is less interplay between the band members as on Luggage which contains only Rico’s rhymes over keys and percussion. The album contains more of the former than the latter which makes Leaves an explosive album from beginning to end.

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