On the godforsaken shuttle bus back to Port Authority from the Ikea outlet in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a couple of weeks ago, the stressed-out United Nations employee behind me expressed a preference for the whitebread soul sounds of Jersey-bred Toby Lightman over those of Lightman’s young English peer Joss Stone, into whose recent Irving Plaza show she’d unsuccessfully lobbied an industry friend for passage. Other industry friends in positions to know seem to agree with the lady’s assessment: Nile Rodgers of Chic plays liquid-crystal electric guitar and local beatsmiths Ming & FS contribute perfunctory scratching to tunes on Little Things, Lightman’s debut. And, “bonus track” or no, I assume the surprisingly supple cover of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” that closes the album comes with Blige’s (and Sean Combs’s) blessing.
You’ll side with Lightman yourself if you like your pointlessly acrobatic oversinging wrapped up in the cozy acoustic strums and mildly enthusiastic student-union percussion of Dave Matthews frat-pop fluff. So most of Little Things is perfectly disposable, but “Devils and Angels,” the CD’s single, is the keeper: sassily girl-powered talk-to-the-hand laid atop chintzy, snake-hipped Middle Eastern minor chords, during which the University of Wisconsin grad capably wonders about the miseducation of Blu Cantrell.
Toby Lightman plays the Canal Room October 29.