Kindred the Family Soul, 'A Couple Friends'
Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon, West Philadelphia protégés of the Roots and Jill Scott, friends and a couple married 16 years with six children, spend their fifth album struggling through hard times but celebrating being in it for the long haul. They do it with R&B grooves as warm and alive as any this year, unfashionably tapping Philly International disco, Barry White, Run-D.M.C., quiet storm, pop gospel and their spiritual antecedents Ashford and Simpson (whose Valerie Simpson contributes harmonies to the title cut) without ever suggesting retro is the point. There's even a minute-long chant from their kids about keeping up with household chores. And over a Marvin Gaye rhythm bed in lush centerpiece "Everybody's Hustling," Fatin and Aja weather the war on the poor — low credit scores, no health insurance, two jobs not paying enough. But they stay grounded and refuse despair, knowing sex and God will help them through. By Chuck Eddy