Every note of Cee-Lo's solo debut demonstrates that he's fully aware of his potential audience's high expectations. As his own producer, Cee-Lo mixes a sonic gumbo that's rich enough to up the ante on OutKast's spectacular recent releases. Xylophone bubbles against popping bass, jug-band riffs greet splashes of cymbal, rock guitar dances through fiddles, trumpet bounces off steel drum, and ambient noise and disembodied voices trip around the edges of the mix. This music sounds like it could go absolutely anywhere (and just about does), but it also remains focused on Cee-Lo's voice and his lyrics, which take the album to new heights.
Cee-Lo means it when he sings (which he does nearly as much as he raps, with great effectiveness) One song could save a life of the young ones depending on you. He consistently testifies his faith and challenges the philistine music industry (at one point stating Today's music has become the Matrix), but he does all of this with such genuine compassion that he never sounds condescending. Key to this is the fact that Cee-Lo stays down off the pulpit -- he consistently struggles with his faith and his own shortcomings, and on "Country Love," he keeps his head low with believable conviction and washes his wife's feet. When he sings, You don't know me/A record can't tell you, Cee-Lo's just telling it like it is, but the news comes as a shock, because rarely in recent memory has any artist sounded so transparent and true.