When neo-soul goes Canadian

He’s white. He’s Canadian. And he records sweet soul music for Motown Records.

You got a problem with that?

Winnipeg’s Remy Shand doesn’t see why anyone should.

“This is the music that expresses everything I feel, emotionally, rhythmically and tonally,” he explains.

“What other label would understand it better? There’s no more Stax

In fact, Shand’s general soulfulness recalls the prime eras of both Stax and Motown, if not the precise sounds associated with either label.

Like the work of African-American neo-soul stars such as D’Angelo and Maxwell, Shand’s debut LP,

“The Way I Feel,” undulates with the expansive funk of Marvin Gaye’s most experimental recordings.

His falsetto recalls the tremolo of prime Curtis Mayfield.

“A lot of the soul music I listened to growing up had these great mid-range voices,” the 23-year-old explains.

“But I could only sing really low or really high. When I listened to Earth, Wind & Fire (fronted by soaring singer

Phillip Bailey), I found my range.”

Shand has begun to find his audience, too.

His CD enjoyed a Top 40 debut on Billboard’s album chart last week, buoyed by heavy play on Adult R&B stations.

It’s the ideal format for his old-school values.

Shand prides himself not only on shunning samples, but on playing every single instrument himself, a la early Stevie Wonder.

(In case you miss the point, all 15 instruments he used are

listed on the album’s inside sleeve.)

His credit for having “written, produced, arranged, performed and mixed” the album is embedded in the spine of the CD’s jewel box _ so you couldn’t miss it even if you threw the album cover away.

“So many people claim to be one-person operations, but then they use an outside engineer,” Shand says, before joking: “I even did my own catering.”

His loner style came about by necessity.

Winnipeg isn’t exactly soul central _ every musician Shand met played in a rock band.

Anyway, he was used to doing things apart from his peers, given his upbringing as a home-schooled kid.

Shand’s father, a musician, recognized his son’s serious intent early on and let him concentrate almost entirely on

playing and recording.

A demo got him a contract with Universal Canada.

When Kadar Massenburg, the head of Motown (a

Universal-associated label), heard the recording, he claimed it for a U.S. release.

Shand is hardly the first white guy to record for Motown; Rare Earth, Bruce Willis and even 98 Degrees beat him to it.

Reviewing that list makes Shand shudder and laugh.

But he needn’t feel too self-conscious about it.

He’s talented enough to put anyone’s race issues well behind him.