Cheers! My Birthday Celebration with the Napa Valley Wine Country Tours

After losing my grandmother a few weeks before my birthday, I really needed to celebrate life. I know she would want me to do that. This year, I decided to ring in a new year of life in wine country. My soror traveled up from So Cal to visit. This would be her first time in Napa. I didn’t want to drive so instead, we bought bus tickets for the Napa Valley Wine Country Tours.

Let me tell you something, going on this bus tour was one of the BEST decisions I made. The Napa Valley Wine Country Tours bus isn’t just any bus. It’s a limo bus that looks like a VIP club lounge on wheels. We paid $119 for an 8-hour trip, visit to 4 wineries in Sonoma and Napa counties, continental breakfast and lunch. It was worth every penny. The tastings aren't covered in the bus fare, but they ran about $10-$25. Wineries won't charge you for tastings if you buy a bottle. I recommend this for tourists and any Bay Area locals who have folks visiting from out of town and want a short excursion to Nap…

Mary J. Blige Takes a Chance and Delivers Rich Soul in ‘The London Sessions’

When I think about the soundtrack to my teen years, Mary J.Blige’s voice is on there. The girl from the Yonkers projects can sing about the pains and joys of love better than many of us can put into words.  I was down for Mary when she came on the scene back in 1992 with What’s the 411? Now the Queen of Hip Hop Soul is about to release her 13th studio album The London Sessions.

Mary J. Blige has to do what a lot of artists who debuted during the ‘90s—stay relevant and appealing to music listeners. People like her, Usher, Jay Z, etc. are still young and want to make music. But they need to produce music that fans, young and seasoned, will buy. I thought it was a brilliant idea for her go overseas to the U.K. and work with British producers to make the The London Sessions. With artists like the late Amy Winehouse and Adelle, the Brits have brought some deep soul artists to music.  Mary J. Blige made the smart move of working with producers overseas like Sam Smith, Disclosure and Naughty Boy.

This new album is a different sound for Mary, but it’s still Mary. It’s definitely more mature, with grown-woman lyrics.  The album opens with a classic soulful, bluesy/gospel type of song called “Therapy.” It’s about a woman bothering her ex-lover, has internal conflict and needs to let go.  Which is why she needs therapy. There are a few club beat songs like “My Loving” and “Nobody but You.”  "Right Now" is reminiscent of her signature hip-hop soul sound.  One of my favorite songs is “Doubt." It’s a good rise from the bottom song:

I can't keep doubting myself
Now you're looking at a leader

Now you're staring at a queen

You said I'll never be someone

But now I’m pulling all the strings

The London Sessions is a good album. It’s good soulful music. It’s real music. I applaud her for taking a risk and opening herself up to try something different while still staying Mary. Will mainstream pop music listeners buy the album? I don’t know. I think Mary J. Blige fans will be pleased. I’ve loved her music, style and realness for a long time and I like the album. The reviews on iTunes have been good. If you like real, soulful, grown, R&B music-- get the album.

The London Sessions comes out Dec. 2nd in the U.S. You can pre-order the album on iTunes and Amazon

FTC Disclosure statementI participated in the Mary J. Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of bLink Marketing Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.