Published Feb 05, 2020In 2007, Gil Scott-Heron was released from prison after serving time for a plea deal violation. Before the year was over, the legendary poet/musician was in the studio with Richard Russell, of XL Recordings, to record what would be his powerful, groundbreaking LP, I'm New Here.
Nine years and 364 days later, Chicago jazz drummer, bandleader and beatmaker Makaya McCraven has released We're New Again, a reimagining of Scott-Heron's celebrated swan song. Keeping Gil's spoken word vocals intact, McCraven builds new compositions to support these formidable words.
Pulling together an excellent collection of musicians, including harpist Brandee Younger, Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and bassist Junius Paul, McCraven uses brash beats, introspective Eastern strings and brooding piano to cast a new light on Scott-Heron's fragile and sometimes powerful expressions.
On tracks like the vulnerable "I'm New Here, the optimistic "I'll Take Care of You" and the splendid cover of Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil," McCraven plays with the original's structure, giving each track a new viewpoint. But what makes We're New Again so fascinating lies in the fact that Makaya McCraven benevolently and sonically recognizes Gil Scott-Heron's grief, joy, and legacy, making sure these vital expressions remain the album's true focus. (XL)