The unique moniker Heistheartist leaves no doubt about LeeMann Bassey’s seriousness of intent. The Central Islip, New York native began his professional musical journey as a secular neo-soul singer before hearing an online TD Jakes sermon that spun his head around. Heistheartist felt inspired to redirect his artistic efforts and spread what he experienced hearing Jakes through music instead. The Christian singer/songwriter has enjoyed success with this new style and his new EP Under the Influence of Love (Acoustic Soul) will propel him to new heights of recognition and success. It features a half dozen songs proving that Heistheartist made the right decision following his newfound Muse and that the artistic dividends are just beginning to pay off.
He divides the release between two originals and four covers. Despite the presence of outside material. Heistheartist designed Under the Influence of Love (Acoustic Soul) with conceptual ambitions in mind. The originals and covers are part of a larger “story” drawing parallels between the Crucifixion and falling in love, struggling to keep it alive, eventual trouble, and how faith in God sustains us through such troubled waters. Successfully incorporating outside material into this arc is an impressive achievement and Heistheartist essays each of the covers as if he’d written the songs.
An instrumental cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Me and Mr. Jones” opens the EP collection. Many listeners will undoubtedly concur that opting to cover the track as an instrumental is a wise decision as few singers will compare favorably with the late Winehouse. The instrumental, however, captures the spirit of the original, albeit in brief and idiosyncratic fashion. It boasts melodic strands reaching from upscale elegance into barroom brooding. It reeks of smoke and close quarters.
His voice fills the mid-range with unbroken musical authority during “Boom (Doo Wop Version)”. Heistheartist has steady control over the warmth he conveys and it’s especially ideal for this first of the EP’s two originals. Do not take the song’s subtitle at face value; Heistheartist doesn’t take a purist’s approach to doo wop and, instead, dives head long into his take on the style. “Caught Out There (Acoustic)” covers Kelis and represents the moment when a relationship hits the skids. It’s impressive, once again, to hear how Heistheartist claims the material as his rather than aspiring to be musical Memorex. Pairing his voice with piano alone would fail if he didn’t have the chops to pull it off, he does, but chutzpah is as important.
“Ungodly Hour (Acoustic)” moves from the piano to acoustic guitar. He covers Chole X Halle this time and his unabashed willingness to use the songs as vehicles for self-expression is key. Heistheartist retains the spirit of the originals; everything else is another songwriter’s. His takes on the third and fourth songs emphasize intimacy and melody above all else. It’s his presence, however, that brings them sparkling to life. “God Is On My Mind” is the second original included on the EP and simmers with hushed passion and a relaxed airy backbeat.
Heistheartist bookends the EP with a final instrumental piece, a piano-driven cover of Erykah Badu’s “Out My Mind, Just in Time” that pieces you with the same soulful playing embodying the EP’s earlier peaks. It’s difficult to recall many artists aspiring to such unity and completeness in their recordings, but Heistheartist’s sense of calling fuels his creativity. This much is clear and the results are unforgettable.