Gina Sicilia – Love Me Madly | Album Review

Gina Sicilia – Love Me Madly

Blue Élan Records

www.ginasicilia.com

CD: 11 Songs, 34 Minutes

Styles: Folk, Mellow Blues, All Original Songs

Remember Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang, 1990’s folk superstars? They were living proof that women don’t need to be sopranos to earn acclaim as vocalists. Gina Sicilia, a Pennsylvania native, has also garnered Billboard success although her range is limited to the lower register. Her music cannot be called pure blues in the sense that Etta James and Bessie Smith fans rave about. Rather, it lies in the Etheridge/lang vein. It’s not quite folk, not quite jazz, not quite rock, not quite blues. Being hard to classify is both a blessing and a curse in the digital age. On the one hand, having a unique style keeps one from being described as “derivative” or “cookie-cutter.” On the other hand, it’s more difficult to market to record producers and fans alike. Sicilia’s latest album, Love Me Madly, consists of eleven original songs that blues purists might scratch their heads at, but lovers of romance and relaxation will surely enjoy. Gina’s strengths are her stage presence and originality. It might get stronger if she commits herself to one genre in particular.

Songwriting and singing are second nature to Sicilia.  She was singing and performing at local talent shows when she was six, and started writing songs when she was twelve. “I got into blues and soul when I was a young teenager,” she says, “and by the time I was eighteen or nineteen, I was singing in a blues band. In my early years in college, you could find me at the weekly blues jams at Warmdaddy’s in Philadelphia.”

Sicilia met a group of musicians at those jams who helped her record her first demo. “In 2007,” she says, “I recorded and released my first album, an EP titled Allow Me to Confess.” Those eight songs caught many people’s ears; she developed a following and was nominated for a Blues Music Award as Best New Artist in 2008.  That same year, she released her second album, Hey Sugar, which shot to #10 on the Living Blues Radio chart. Sicilia was nominated for a Blues Blast Music Award for Best New Artist Debut Recording.

Accompanying Gina (vocals, backing vocals) are Marc Franklin on trumpet; Arthur Edmaiston on tenor saxophone; Kirk Smothers on baritone sax; Wen Yi Yu on violin; Jennifer Puckett on viola; Mark Wallace on cello; Jessie Munson on violin/fiddle; Sharisse Norman on backing vocals, and Rev Charles Hodges on organ.

The only two traditional-sounding tracks on this CD are the opener, “Like the World Has Never Seen,” and the ninth track, “How My Dreams They Go.” The first is a nearly a cappella song, featuring only a thumping percussive background as musical accompaniment. Like Tracy Chapman, Sicilia puts her soulful alto/contralto vox to best effect here: “Darling, we are ready. Yes, our day has come. We’re gonna build a kingdom, and the people, they will come.” In contrast, nifty number nine, featuring Luther Dickinson, is a peppy dance tune that might make the Billboard light up again. As I said, they’re not pure blues, but they sure are good.

Gina Sicilia is successfully making her way in the music business, no matter which categories her music may fall into. She has an oeuvre all her own and won’t be pigeonholed. For those of you who prefer classic blues sounds and rhythms, look elsewhere, but to all others, Sicilia boldly says, Love Me Madly!

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