Tender You Back, The Sessions Voices’ first album of original music, explores the complex emotional realms at the crossroads of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. The sixteen tracks in this body of work are told from a uniquely feminine perspective and recount stories of friendship, unconditional maternal love, forgiveness, self-acceptance, romantic aspirations – all the while exploring one’s relationship to oneself and society. Two recurring themes rise to the surface in this spiritual and emotional voyage: “the journey towards light” and “acceptance”.
The album opens with the introspective vocal intro Nocturne, where several voices weave in and out, calling and responding to one another, while setting the scene for the subsequent stories to be told, warning us that “where hearts are weak, they can break, they can change…” This motif is echoed later on, in Nocturne‘s sister song Dawn, a trip-hop ballad, which begins with the very same lyrics, but further explores the emotional quandary in Nocturne: the need to choose between allowing personal differences to put distances in our relationships or rising above doubt and remaining emotionally open to one another despite personal differences. This crossroad is encountered not only between individuals, but can extend to society at large. We are warned that “pride makes room for heartache” in the vocal interlude In the Twilight. Unlike Nocturne, the call and response is carried by a choir of voices – not individual identifiable voices – in the languages Tagalog and English, a symbol of how ideas and ideologies can unite or divide an entire people.
Throughout the album, the endurance of relationships is tested while Light and Darkness battle each other out. In the old-school soul ballad Turn It into Healing (Curare), the interlocutor asks, “Tell me why do you hide from the light when you’re down?” when there is that desire to bring the other person away from darkness and into the light, asking them to cast away fear and doubt in favor of love and friendship.
In Hands, the interlocutor seeks the light by way of forgiveness, as she reaches out and makes amends, requesting a second chance. In the 6/8 R&B-influenced Reflect, the narrator recognizes the value of the emotional “gifts” she has received from her friend and she expresses deep admiration for the light her friend shines upon her, and the wish to reflect back that nurturing light in return, to “tender [her] back” – where ‘tender’ though used as a verb keeps its meaning as an adjective.
Acceptance, the other recurring theme throughout the album, is explored in its many forms – acceptance of one’s place in life in the face of an unfulfilled dream (Broken Dream), acceptance that love may be unrequited (Graces (Dropping Again), acceptance of one’s responsibility to find your own way in life (The Right Key), acceptance in the form of forgiveness and unconditional love in the face of hurtful distrust (Patience), acceptance in recognizing mistakes, yet acknowledging the good in relationships that endure through trials (in the unplanned trilogy Hands, Turn It into Healing, Reflect – introduced by the appropriately named vocal interlude Endurance), the welcoming of a newborn child (Tahiti), as well as people’s resilience within systemic social injustice (Symphony of Brotherhood). This last gospel-like song is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Lives Matter movement, and to Afro-American music in general – continuing the social philosophy ever-present in the band’s first album Songs of Freedom.
The vocal interlude that follows it, featuring Senegalese/Roman percussionist Ismaila Mbaye, is aptly titled Resilience. Mr. Mbaye is a long friend and collaborator of the band and was also invited to connect past and present African diaspora. The last piece on the album, Today – featuring an international collaboration with singer/songwriter Nzingha from Trinidad and Tobago and Brazilian body music collectives Música do Círculo and Fritura Livre – touches upon the hardest form of acceptance: self-acceptance and the relationship with one’s own body and self. The musical journey ends with the purely instrumental piece ‘Into the Light’, completing the journey from darkness – through acceptance – into light.
Stream or buy Tender You Back on all major digital stores worldwide.