When you think of a solo artist, what comes to mind? Do you see a singer/songwriter strumming away at his acoustic guitar like a sensitive, womanizing, Jack Johnson-esque act? Maybe instead you see an introspective pianist rarely gazing up at complicated sheet music as he or she becomes consumed by complicated elegies. If you’re mind intuitively limits itself to these stereotypes (as mine often does), let Gabriel Royal positively mold your instinctive insight. The quickly emerging cellist blends R&B, jazz, and classical elements to form a captivating alternative ballad that’s as it is novel as it is contemporary. In many ways, Royal is even more cutting-edge than his guitar/piano bearing predecessors given his ingenuity with an underutilized instrument.
I’ve long vouched for the cello as one of the most underappreciated musical tools in existence, but I’ve never seen it played like this. Royal draws his bow in protracted choruses, then counters with by plucking his way through verses as if manning a low-pitched standing bass for an unusually small orchestra. His voice isn’t powerful enough to win any reality singing competitions, but it’s crude enough to represent a natural content that fuses with his cello’s raw power to form an performance similar to a subway artist that holds travelers back from their journey to experience a thanklessly savvy recital. Royal’s potential success may be conceived of overly optimistic hope, but his willingness to experiment in the scarcely ventured solo territory is certainly admirable and deserves a fair level of appreciation at worst.