Bryan “Braille” Winchester has had a productive year. He launched The Humble Beast Website and Record Label with some equally talented and hardworking individuals. The result has been some great art, both audio and visually, as well as commendable performing and touring for Braille and the crew, locally and abroad. He has also come from one of the darker seasons in his life, leading to his second to last record “Weapon Aid”, a somber detour from his earlier releases.

The one thing about artists and experiencing or walking out pain though is that it definitely deepens and strengthens vocal expression, evidenced on both “Weapon Aid” and Braille’s latest offering, “Native Lungs”. You can really feel Braille, no pun intended. The emotion is very evident. And thanks to a successful Indie-Go-Go campaign, funds were available to make this album Braille’s biggest and most proffessional sounding album to date. This album is also very nostalgic. Where it doesn’t quite take you back to the era of The Native Tongues, it does take you back a few years to before Southern Rap, Sneaker and Fashion Rap and dances with every song ran mainstream hip hop. This album would have been very at home on the charts back when Lyor Cohen ran Def Jam and Dmx’s biggest news draw was not his crack addiction. The meat of the production on the album is grimey to put it mildly. Not nearly as dark as “Weapon Aid” but not light hearted by any means. And the amount of very well executed scratch hooks on the album, courtesy of Dj Revolution, Dj Spark, Dj Rob Swift and Dj Idull only add to the gutter East Coast Golden Era nostalgia.

Without a doubt Braille knows how to make an album. Even the wide range of producers on the project don’t take away from  the overrall streamlined fluidity of the project. There are few features on this album, three to be exact, all stellar, and just enough feature space to allow Braille to prove his hold it down solo ability, which he does adequately as he has before. The emotion in Braille’s delivery has definitely advanced, adding to his already commendable wit and storytelling ability. Standout songs on the album include the introspective Evidence produced “Feel It” and the Humble Beast Affiliate Collabo track “Death In Me” featuring Odd Thomas and Theory Hazit, who both more than held their own. The Experiment produced “48 Prisons” and the deeply heartfelt “Too Many Tomorrows” get honorable mentions.

The songs on this album that may have fallen short of the mark mostly do so in comparison to the excellence of the rest of the project. Though semi decent, on a project like “Native Lungs”, a song like the self produced “Rhymes on Everything” which would pass for okay on another project stands out in the wrong way on this one, and the S1 produced “DeepRest”  doesn’t quite take away from the album, but doesn’t exactly add anything to it either.

“Native Lungs” is a good album, a solid effort, and a great display of Braille’s maturity and growth as an artist. Simply put it doesn’t disappoint, and it’s almost a shame that it’s available for free download. That said, you can support by buying it at shows, on iTunes and donating, and you should. The Humble Beast crew not only have a positive message in their music and are not ashamed to profess their faith, they have outstanding product. This album only further adds to their consistency. Give it a listen, it’s worth it.

Release Date: August 30, 2011

Label: Humble Beast

Download it free on humblebeast.com or purchase on iTunes