Friday, April 26, 2013

Gina Sicilia Discovers It Wasn't Real

Gina Sicilia has developed into a striking vocalist and a very fine songwriter. This becomes clear listening to her new CD, It Wasn’t Real (Swingnation Records/VizzTone), is her first that was not produced by Dave Gross. Glenn Barratt produced this recording, that was recorded at Morningstar Studios in Philadelphia, and Gina explains it helped her move out of her comfort zone. Sicilia wrote nine of the ten songs here, the exception being a cover of a less-known Etta James recording, Don’t Cry Baby.

Opening with the terrific title track, Sicilia displays a powerful voice as she belts out this original evocative of classic 50s and 60s R&B. Jay Davidson’s baritone sax helps establish the mood before he takes a booting tenor sax solo while guitarists Kevin Hanson and Jef Lee Johnson add fills. Gina invests much feeling into the cover Don’t Cry Baby as Joel Bryant’s piano accompaniment stands out and Davidson rips off more tough tenor sax. Wake Up Next To You, has an infectious reggae groove, as Gina wants to take her baby home with her. Dennis Gruenling contributes marvelous chromatic harmonica on the jazzy Walkin’ Along the Avenue, that has her lyric on how love can happen when least expected. 

The country-laced Don’t Wanna Be No Mother is a moving song about a marriage where the romance has long gone and the husband Carl looks at pretty young girls and never makes love to her with the haunting line “The stale air of the airplane, smells like my life …” Jef Lee Johnson plays some acoustic slide as well as electric single note runs on this standout emotionally charged performance. It is the highlight of a consistently strong recording.

It Wasn’t Real is a superb album of blues, country and other roots music. It brings together exceptional original songs, strong session playing and marvelous, nuanced vocals that display the marvelous talent Gina Sicilia has become. Highly recommended.

I received my review copy from VizzTone.  Here is a video for Don’t Wanna Be No Mother.

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