The debut album by Alabama-born soul singer Ellis Hooks is a breath of fresh air on the blues and R&B scenes. For starters, Hooks' songs and sound are entirely unaffected by modern notions of sterility and restraint, or even worse, revivalism. These 13 songs burn with the same fire that the great Southern soul and R&B tracks did from the days of yore – without sounding like them. With producer Jon Tiven – who, along with wife Sally, also co-writes with Hooks – the singer has crafted an entirely upstart outing, one that touches upon Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding, but feels like one of the gritty New York streets Hooks has busked upon. The brokenness and hope that lie in the rough grain of Hooks' voice in "Everything's Falling Around Me" feel as much like a prayer as a wish for transcendence, supported by the biting chunkiness of Sally Tiven's popping bass strut and Jon Tiven's knotty six-string fills. Hooks goes into the groove and lets it cover him; he's singing to the heavens, but also to anyone else who is in earshot and can provide help.