Cynthia Layne’s music is dolce R&B/soul like the sumptuous melodic hues familiar to you from Kelly Price and Natalie Cole. Layne’s latest release Beautiful Soul, produced by her keyboardist Reggie Bishop and saxophonist Rob Dixon, is flagged with ballroom dance, 70s funk/disco-house beats and tenderly strummed guitar expressions played by Sandy Williams. Although when Layne ventures off into other shades of music especially the ballroom dance motions of "I Can’t Change You," a beautiful symbiotic relationship comes through and the dance between vocals and music magnetizes the listener to its embers. The tune recalls of classic Natalie Cole as the piano and horns create waltzing swirls softly cupped by the elegant rhythm sections. Layne also lights up when it comes to the 70s funk/disco tasseled track "Will U Be There." The number has the prongs of music played from vintage episodes of Soul Train, proving that going retro also brings out Layne’s strengths and capabilities.
Also on the album are two versions of the song "Letting You Go," one with softly calibrated rhythms and the other is an extended version with treatments of upbeat R&B flavorings. The topics of Layne’s lyrics are all about the twists and turns that relationships go through like in "Letting You Go" when Layne calls outs, "Tell me what I need to know so we can stay together." The gentle lifts of the piano keys and softly strummed acoustic guitar on "All I Need" act as a cushion for the vows of love, "What you have is all I need/ What we got I hope you see." The touch of light funk treatments on tracks like "Kings & Queens" and "Free Youself" are bewitching and the smooth soul fastenings on numbers like "Mystery" and the title track deliver sprigs of delightful surges from the saxophone hitting its mark on Layne’s vocal cues. The smooth Caribbean night-time grooves of "Funny" will carry you away with its tide, and the final track "Nina Shouts," featuring Layne’s daughter Nina Rae, will bring you back to shore as Miss Rae makes a shout out to all the musicians on the recording and a few of her friends concluding with the only boy’s name from her list of friends. Maybe her mother’s music has affected her.
Cynthia Layne is from a generation of artists who believe that love always prevails and her album Beautiful Soul makes you want to believe with her. The arcades of classic and contemporary R&B/soul is an inspiration as Layne’s vocals make love seem like it is always in season. If you leave with only one impression of Cynthia Layne after listening to Beautiful Soul, it would be that her voice nourishes the soul. Her words make peace with what has been lost and reaffirms the love that is already inside. Beautiful Soul is dedicated to Layne’s sister who passed away far too early. She writes in the liner notes, "This album is dedicated to my sister. I know your spirit is being enjoyed by all in heaven. We miss you."