Cover art included, liner notes not included
Four years and three months is a long time to go without analbum. Once faded from view, there was a Christmas release, side appearances on cuts by , , and , and a duet with recorded for the soundtrack. The wait for a proper album extended into early 2016. Still with RCA, as part of what was easily the strongest major-label R&B roster of the mid-2010s, eventually returned beside co-songwriter and producer . The two were previously together through , , and , a stellar trilogy of modern red-dirt soul. By the absolute slightest margin, isn't up to that level, but its strengths are undeniable, too numerous to make the set seem like a disappointment. It starts with the clawing funk of "Save Me" (something of a full-band sequel to "Sista Big Bones"), one of those openers so effective that the temptation to hit "repeat" and skip the rest is very real. Unlike his earlier work, here rarely dips into sorrow, instead using more of his time to express desire and gratitude. The range of backdrops is as varied as ever, from solo acoustic piano to burbling synthesizers. "I Want You," involving the latter, is a knockout machine-soul ballad, where 's falsetto howl is as wicked as ever. The two songs not produced by are handled by the duo of (still crediting his work to his website URL) and , both of whom previously worked with as well. "Amen," an ode to a woman, is a trap/gospel hybrid -- jouncing mechanical drums and percussion, organ -- that works better than it should. "Take You Home," a beaming ballad about introducing his woman to his mother, is church all the way.