There are a number of reasons why it's hard for singers pursuing neo-soul and R&B to make a national impact coming out of the Northwest. For starters, few people up here are really looking for urban talent like they are in dominant soul locales like Atlanta, Philly, D.C., and New York. There's also not enough radio support or local labels/venues creating an infrastructure for the sound. That makes it all the more impressive that Seattle-based R&B diva Choklate continues to have so much success. There's a strong buzz surrounding her latest release, To Whom It May Concern, which dropped last week. That's mainly because there are a number of radio-ready singles on the disc, from the upbeat "Hunney's Runnin'" and "Grown Folks" to "Suns Out," that are as impressive on the R&B front as anything else released nationally all year. With 13 full songs and two interludes, Choklate covers a lot of ground; some tunes are pure pillow talk, while others are more about lessons learned. It's not shocking that the project is so smooth: Much of the production was done by Seattle's Cool Hand Luke, Vitamin D, who has a knack for capturing an artist's essence unlike anyone else in the city. When the album's listened to in one sitting, it's clear Choklate has matured and found a sound that can revive contemporary soul, just when others were questioning if it was dead. With Eric Roberson. 7 p.m. show all ages. JONATHAN CUNNINGHAM

Fri., Jan. 1, 7 & 10 p.m., 2010

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