The first time we encountered Terrell Carter was in Madea's Class Reunion. Six foot five, pumped to perfection, wife beater and jeans, do-rag and the voice of an angel. On his knees singing a version of What If that was sooo strong ... we wondered (a) where did he train? and (b) what was it like to have a love that strong? and (c) how many groupies would we have to fight? (Hey, kind of gave up on that last one, but you can't fault a man for trying, right?) Growing up, Terrell's sound used to be called "beggin' music"—the songs that Teddy P, Al Green and Peabro Bryson made famous. There was no gimmick—they just sang.
Lately the Detroit-born singer has been doing his thing. You may have seen him in the film version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman or on the Meet the Browns tour. (Yes, believe it or not, certain dance music and neo-soul types do enjoy that those plays.) Recently he also dropped his second CD, Carlela's Reign. which we've been listening to all weekend. Just like the singer, it's fabulous. But don't take our word for it. There are plenty of samples on Terrell's website—including performances from Madea and the Browns—and CdBaby for you to judge.
Photos by Kawai Matthews
More Terrell below.
What's there not to like about the 16-track album? Terrell's music is part K-Ci and JoJo, part Teddy, a little Jaheim and peppered with lots of gospel. In multi-layered slower tracks like Better Than his voice is steady and the lyrics are awesome. That trademark sound comes through as he is an earnest church boy promising to treat his girl better than his father and uncles. I grew up in a family where the men were no good ... my daddy was a rolling stone .. he always made sure that we never had a home.
Our tastes are almost perfectly fulfilled by the uptempo tracks like Life and I Had it Hard. Both have that late 80s/early 90s Uptown Records-Christopher Williams feel over a Brand Nubian or Tribe Called Quest beat. Life is probably in the heaviest rotation over here; it's an uptempo ballad, which is the best of both worlds.
The acoustic duet with Indie.Arie may get Terrell that airplay that he needs. My Life is not the best song on the album, but any collaboration with a hot artist is entree material. Her voice is at it's usual here: melodic, controlled and comforting. Interestingly, his is much the same ... and that reserve makes me want more. Hey, but we can never get enough Terrell.
Photos by Kawai Matthews