Once in a while, a song grabs me by the ears when I'm driving the car, listening to the radio. Recently this happened to me; as soon as I heard this tune, I grabbed my cell phone and quickly typed in what I guessed was the title. Later, I logged onto iTunes and succeeded in my music hunt: I had heard "Pick Somebody Up" by Raul Midón. If you're a fan of "organic soul," or R&B crossed with a folksy sound (think India.Arie), Midón's smooth voice and acoustic guitar skills are worth seeking out.
Born in Embudo, New Mexico in 1966, the son of an Argentine father and American mother, Midón's love of music started early. Though blind since birth, Midón began playing drums in early childhood before switching to guitar. Specializing in flamenco, jazz, and classical styles, the young prodigy later moved to Miami, working on his college degree while paying the bills by singing backup in Latin pop recording sessions. According to AllMusic, word of his talent quickly spread, which led to his relocating to New York. Midón's major label debut, 2005's State of Mind, was indeed impressive--two guest artists included Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz. He subsequently released two more discs: 2007's World Within a World and 2010's Synthesis. The former, which also featured guest Me'Shell Ndegéocello, contains "Pick Somebody Up."
What makes this song stand out? First, the acoustic guitar riffs immediately set up the shuffling rhythm, further accentuated by subtle yet effective drums. Then Midón's upbeat voice kicks in, riding the beat effortlessly with his jazz-inflected singing style. An undercurrent of strings punctuates the refrain, adding a slightly solemn tone. Finally, the lyrics are relentlessly positive, with Midón explaining why he loves making music. "Some people ask me: why are you're doing this thing?" he sings. "Getting up early in the morning just to catch a plane, a bus or a train?" Despite the hard work, he argues, "I just wanna give what I have to give /Maybe it'll pick somebody up." Similar to Arie or Jill Scott, Midón clearly wants to express idealism in his music from a very personal angle.
"I can listen when somebody smiles at me," he half-raps toward the end of the song. Listening to the track certainly creates that effect. Call it organic soul or neo-soul--I call "Pick Somebody Up" uplifting with an infectious rhythm and spirit. Do not miss his guitar solo and scatting at the very end of the video clip.