Finally, after all this time, Gil Scott-Heron is returning with new music. After being absent from the industry for years amid reports and rumors of disabling drug abuse and other destructive behavior, and after a few stints here and there behind bars, he has returned to announce the release of a new CD entitled I’m New Here which is due out in January 2010 on XL Records. In fact, the Gil Scott-Heron Facebook group recently sent this preview out to its members [Click here for video preview.]
After listening to the preview a few times which contains bits of new songs on the CD—“A.M.,” “I’m New Here,” “Me and the Devil,” and “I’ll Take Care of You”—it becomes plain that his physical voice has changed drastically. His once deep, rich, baritone sounds strained, abused; nevertheless, it seems to add another dimension to his work. His voice bespeaks, belies a narrative of pain and anguish—a search for self. It lends a certain authenticity, a certain authority to his poetics.
But however changed his physical voice, his artistic voice remains soundly intact. It remains honest and uncompromising, and reminds me how much we missed him during the eight years of the Bush administration. If any time we needed his honest, uncompromising critique, it was then.
Gil Scott-Heron has often spoken of his love of the blues. And I once heard a noted blues artist state that all true blues artists are flawed in some way. In fact, the blues artist went on to state, often the reason blues artists choose the blues as a medium of expression is simply because they are flawed, because they have been through something, and the blues becomes the medium most suited to articulating that pain.
It follows, then, that I’m New Here is perhaps an apt title. Perhaps, this is not Gil Scott-Heron’s comeback, his re-emergence, but the coming out party for a completely new individual. Gil Scott-Heron has been through something; he seems to be waging an on-going, pitted battle against himself, and finally he is winning. And he has returned, reborn, remade, all new, to share that experience with us.
For those of you living in the New York City area, Gil Scott-Heron will be playing at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill on November 4th. Also, following the album release, he will be embarking on a European tour.