Black Music Matters Festival

Jeff Bates

Rainbow Man – 2003 (RCA)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

CDs by Jeff Bates

Jeff Bates has a heck of a story - given up for adoption, he grew up in Mississippi, worked on an oil rig and as a carpenter, and even spent time in jail on drug charges before getting his first cuts as a songwriter and, eventually, his own record deal - but more importantly, he has a heck of a voice. With his deep, powerful baritone, he's an aural dead ringer for Conway Twitty, and the singer isn't afraid to exploit the resemblance - not, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, that there's anything wrong with that.

Bates had a hand in writing every song on his major label debut, and they're a decent bunch, though few are as outstanding as his vocal talent. Indeed, "The Love Song," the first single, is one of the weaker, at least compared to a genuinely Twitty-esque crooner like "Long, Slow Kisses" or "I Wanna Make You Cry." More originality, or at least inspiration, in the arrangements and playing might have compensated for the shortage of real keepers among the songs, but as it is, there's plenty of good, if not great music to enjoy here - and that magnificent voice is more than enough to carry through the shortcomings.