Gina Sicilia – Tug Of War | Album Review

Gina Sicilia – Tug Of War

Blue Elan Records

11 Tracks/39:47

Over the last ten years, singer Gina Sicilia has released four full-length recordings plus two Eps, all showcasing her remarkable voice. While not a true blues singer, Sicilia’s original music contains elements of the music, while leavened with a strong soul and R&B foundation befitting her Philadelphia home town. Her latest recording examines three years of change and turmoil in her life, a piercing examination on the vicissitudes on love.

“I Don’t Want To Be In Love” places the singer’s heartbroken voice over the twin guitars of co- producer Dave Darling and Zach Zunis. The following track, the original “Damaging Me,” is equally downhearted lyrically, causing mournful quivers in Sicilia’s voice. But the musical accompaniment rocks hard with Ron Jennings on guitar, Ken Pendergast on bass, Scott Key on drums, and Walter Runge on organ injecting a glimmer of hope for the future. “I’ll Stand Up” shows the singer’s defiant side as she vows to never give up. The stripped-down arrangement features Darling on electric and acoustic guitar plus Arlan Oscar on Hammond organ fashioning church-like backing.

Sicilia’s bleak world view colors several other original songs. “They Never Pay Me” is her plea for equal respect and pay from various entities in the music community. She is alone and heartbroken on “Abandoned,” while the healing waters of the river mix with her tears on “I Cried,” working through the pain in hopes of finding redeeming salvation. Jennings on guitar takes one of the few instrumental solos while Joel Bryant on organ fashions some reverent gospel seasoning. “Heaven” is an upbeat tune with Sicilia projecting a vibrant exuberance that is a stark contrast to the rest of the disc.

It takes a lot of confidence to do a song that Patsy Cline and Candi Staton have covered. Sicilia is stunning on “He Called Me Baby,” her voice rising up with power and grace, singing with a sense of freedom that makes this cut the highlight of the disc. She gets a vocal assist from Charlene Holloway on a cover of the Exciters hit, “Tell Him”. Taking a darker tone than the original, Sicilia once again impresses with a stirring vocal that never succumbs to the temptation to scream or indulge in unnecessary vocal gymnastics. Her emotions surge to the surface on the Beatles “All My Loving,” accompanied primarily by Darling’s melodic guitar work, connecting with listeners with a passionate delivery.

There is plenty of darkness inhabiting the emotions that run through this album. But Sicilia manages to find enough hope to keep herself, and listeners, ready for a brighter day. She is a singer well-worth listening to.

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