Is there life after neo-soul? The R&B subgenre, which enjoyed immense popularity in the late '90s-early '00s, long ago outlived its usefulness. The name--conceived, reportedly, in a marketing meeting by then-Motown CEO Kedar Massenburg--never quite fit the diverse range of musicians under its banner, and tended to box them into a stylistic niche which the artists themselves reportedly hated.
Case in point: SF singer-guitarist Martin Luther. His music had elements of neo-soul, to be sure, but it wasn't quite retro: instead of relying on old-school B-3 sounds and analog synths, he blended soul and funk with rock guitar and socially-conscious lyrics. Tagging his sound "Rebel Soul Music" (also the title of one of his albums), Marty, as his friends refer to him, enjoyed a bit of solo success and also worked alongside the Roots, Michael Franti, and, more recently, Too $hort's Town Bizness (a potential local supergroup who have unfortunately dropped off the radar).
ML plays Oakland's Yoshi's tonight and tomorrow, celebrating the imminent release of his new album Love Is the Hero, along with fellow neo-soul refugee Cody ChesnuTT (best known for his hit "The Seed"), Oakland wordsmith Ise Lyfe, and Bay Area "hitwoman for hire" Silk-E (another erstwhile member of Town Biz). Forget the neo-, this is soul music, babies!