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Gina SICILIA – Hey Sugar 2008

Posted in BLUES, Gina SICILIA on November 30, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Gina SICILIA – Hey Sugar 2008

Blues

This is good cooking! Blues, a tiny bit of jazz, weepy country ballads and even a little bit of a doo-wopesque ditty (the title track, one of my favorites), you kinda get it all here, all in one stew. Nothing really feels out of place here. Just quintessential American music drenched in that old fashioned type of melancholy and grit you don’t really get anymore. Gina has an amazing voice, and writes most of the material on the album as well. Great instrumentation backing this girl up. Tough chick.
By Maximill.
**
Last year, Gina Sicilia‘s Allow Me to Confess debut on SwingNation Records began at #10 on the Living Blues radio charts, and her follow-up, Hey Sugar, will likely launch this young, twenty-something East Coast singer into that same stratosphere. When you click on http://www.ginasicilia.com, she hits you right away with one of the most forceful web-site openings I‘ve ever heard. Produced by BMA nominee Dave Gross (who also plays guitar, drums, and bass on the CD), Hey Sugar is destined for many DJ‘s ‘Top Ten’ CD lists. It’s not a pure blues CD, though. Sure, there‘s the powerful ‘Kissing in the Dark’ that‘s a classic blues song in the making on Hey Sugar, but what impresses me about Gina‘s second CD is its musical diversity. ‘What the Moon Could Never Do’ could be right at home on a roots-rock-Americana folk station, and her cover of Dolly Parton‘s ‘Coat of Many Colors’ is 100% country and western. ‘So Attracted to You’ features a speakeasy and ragtime feel, buoyed by John-Erik Kellso‘s period-perfect trumpet and Gerry Niewood’s jaunty clarinet. There‘s a lot to like on Hey Sugar. Gina’s yet to celebrate her 30‘s, and the blues is in very good hands. She has a career of real promise ahead of her, and I look forward to more blues from this amazing talent.
By By Eric Steiner.
**
Gina Sicilia’s young, talented voice has the ability to melt your heart with the turn of a phrase. She demonstrated that on her debut album Allow Me To Confess, which garnered her a BMA nomination this passed February. Sicilia demonstrated, too, that she had the ability to cross genres easily without alienating listeners and fans of any of the genres. Now, with one more year under her belt and nine new songs to record, Sicilia returns with virtually the same band on her sophomore effort Hey Sugar. Produced by bandleader, songwriting partner, and BMA-nominated guitarist Dave Gross; Sicilia tackles a different direction on this CD.

Sicilia’s signature is weaving back and forth between genres with both her songwriting skills and powerful alto voice that can croon you to a swoon or be as sassy as it wants to be. This second album is not any different. Taking on more of a countrypolitan sound that characterized 50’s and 60’s Nashville in the veins of Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Conway Twitty, and the early songwriting of Willie Nelson; Sicilia seems right at home in this great American landscape of songwriters and singers. On tunes like “What the Moon Could Never Do,” “Nobody’s Darling But Mine,” the Dolly Parton cover “Coat of Many Colors,” and the late night lovers croon of “Plain Apple Pie” are all beautiful homage to this past sound by staying fresh and new with Sicilia’s interpretation and strongly mature songwriting. Don’t leave blues fans! There’s plenty here for all of us, trust me!

For the blues and classic R&B sounds, Sicilia is not short on talent and ear-catching ability either. With the infectious beat of a Muscle Shoals-sounding stomper on the story “Jack & Jill,” Sicilia weaves the biographical tale of two lovers while Dave Gross’ guitar has a sudden ring of Steve Cropper’s licks and David Maxwell conjours Booker T’s organ. Sicilia shows she’s not too far removed from last year’s effort with the swing of “Goin’ Home Baby” another Big Maybelle tune. Sicilia keeps classic 50s & early 60’s R&B alive with the title track which is completed by the male chorus harmonizing with “ooos” and the story of “Cherry Tree” on the following track. My three favorites oddly enough are the nasty and sassy blues of “Kissing In the Dark,” “Lowest of the Low,” and the jazzy “I Pray Most Everyday.” “Kissing” is a revival of an old Memphis Minnie song written by her long time partner Little Son Joe (a.k.a. Ernest Lawlers) which Sicilia interprets so warmly that it’s like the smoke from a day’s last cigarette wrapping around you in a dark room. The beautiful Italian guitar opening by Gross, no doubt homage to Sicilia’s heritage, on “I Pray Most Everyday” shows a uniquely gifted knack for jazz reminding me of Astrud Gilberto or Billie Holiday. I know those are quite huge comparisons and may seem to some like hyperbole but after hearing Sicilia live and on CD these past two years, expectations continue to rise for this young star.

Sicilia’s band is always stellar. Scot Hornick (upright bass), David Maxwell (keys), and Chris Rivelli (drums) along with guest appearances by Dennis Gruenling (harmonica) and Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Gerry Niewood (saxes & clarinet) easily switch gears between genres as flawlessly as Gross and Sicilia do. This album like her last has the same foibles for some more traditional genre listeners. If you don’t care for this sound and that sound, then I might not recommend this to you. However, if you are a general lover of all music when it’s done well and right, then pick this up because this album is no sophomore slouch and stands up easily against last year’s Confess because of its maturity in songwriting and continued skill and craft in vocal phrasing and overall quality. I would dare you to go one step further and go out to see Gina Sicilia and her band as she goes out on tour to support the album all across the country through the rest of 2008.
**
Gina Sicilia- (Vocals);
Dave Gross- (Guitar, Upright Bass, Drums, Background Vocals);
Dennis Gruenling- (Harmonica);
Gerry Niewood- (Clarinet, Alto, Tenor Sax);
Jon-Erik Kellso- (Trumpet);
David Maxwell- (Piano, Organ);
Anthony Tamburro, Larry Cappoli, Lou Bevere- (Background Vocals);
Scot Hornick- (Upright Bass);
Chris Rivelli- (Drums).
**
01. Goin’ Home Baby 2:13
02. So Attracted to You 3:17
03. Kissin’ in the Dark 4:10
04. I Pray Most Everyday 4:14
05. Jack & Jill 4:37
06. What the Moon Could Never Do 2:34
07. Bad Years Comin’ On 3:52
08. Hey Sugar 2:22
09. Cherry Tree 3:12
10. Lowest of the Low 4:42
11. Nobody’s Darling But Mine 3:44
12. Coat of Many Colors 3:01
13. Plain Apple Pie 2:01
**

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Gina SICILIA – Allow Me to Confess 2007

Posted in BLUES, Gina SICILIA on November 15, 2010 by whoisthemonk

Gina SICILIA – Allow Me to Confess 2007

Blues

I know this might come across as some sort of reverse ageism, but I’ve always wondered how a twentysomething musician could legitimately sing the Blues? That’s a pretty pejorative statement I know, but looking at some of these guys with their perfect teeth, expensive leather jackets and fancy guitars, nothing anyone tells me is going to convince me they know what the Blues are.

Oh technically they’ve got the chops; they can play guitar, blow harmonica, and sing, but a machine can be programmed to do most of the same things. I was very deliberate about saying guys because for every new woman Blues singer that comes along, there seems to be about twenty young turks, who in spite of having no real affinity for the music call, are called Blues musicians.

If I have to hear another CD of some young white guy singing misogynistic songs about hot chicks, being dumped, dumping someone, or “hey babe let’s have a good time”, I might puke. I know a lot of old time Blues guys sing “done me wrong songs” but there’s a big difference. Those old time songs were vehicles that most readily expressed the emotions that the Blues evoked and weren’t really about the topic of the song. With the young guys today it unfortunately comes across like they really mean what they are saying in the songs instead of only using them to express a universal emotion.

Maybe its because women still have a harder row to hoe in society than men, or perhaps because they really are more in touch with their feelings, young female Blues singers usually have a much better feel for the music than their male counter parts. Gina Sicilia’s first release, Allow Me To Confess, is a great example of a person with an obvious affinity for the music taking the first steps on what could be a long and successful career.

Obviously nobody has a crystal ball that can predict what will happen to somebody in the years to come, but judging by the skill and range of emotion that’s displayed on this disc, Ms. Sicilia’s potential is obvious. What’s even more impressive is not only is she confident enough to write and perform her own material, (eight of the eleven songs on Allow Me To Confess were written by her), but the material is as varied as it is intelligent.

She can just as easily write a slow, torch song type ballad as she can an upbeat rocker or a gospel tinged spiritual. But what’s truly impressive is the emotion contained within the song and the intelligence in the lyrics. Her song “One Of Many” is a perfect example of this and also a great example of her maturity as a performer.

The song talks about a young woman from an abusive home that’s forced out onto the streets at the age of sixteen and into a lifestyle that will kill her quick. Not satisfied with just pointing out the obvious, Gina describes the girl’s emotional and physiological decline in language that’s as precise as a surgeon’s scalpel. She never trivializes the subject and at the same time keeps it real and never allows it to become sentimental drivel.

That’s where her skill and confidence as a performer comes in. A lot of young performers would be tempted to wring as much emotion out of a song as they could with their voices. Instead Ms. Sicilia trusts the power of the words to be able to speak for themselves and doesn’t resort to histrionics to “sell” it.

She obviously trusts her voice as much as she trusts her lyrics because there is hardly ever an occasion where she sounds as if she’s forcing the issue. Emotions occur naturally and without effort as she allows herself to respond seemingly intuitively to the message behind the lyrics.

When the mood of the song is playful, like “I Ain’t Crazy”, you can hear a sense of mischief coming out as she runs through the reasons why we should consider her sane despite the song’s evidence to the contrary. She also show she has the ability to growl out a good time on the old Etta James number “Pushover” where she not only captures the spirit of the original but puts her own spark into it.

Her voice seems most comfortable in the lower registers, and is far more emotionally sincere when she works down there, but she is also able to utilize the upper end of her range to good effect as a counterpoint. This added dimension allows her the ability to have more than one way to make an emotional impression on the listener and increases the impact and strength of individual titles when she uses it judiciously.

The only occasion she gets away from the approach that has served her so well on the disc is on the last song, the Gospel tinged “When My Ship Comes In”. Even here the only reason it strikes a false note at all is because of just how effectively she had used her voice up to that point. It has the potential to be a beautiful song, but for the only time on the album she falls into the young performer’s trap of thinking more power and higher pitched vocals equate emotional strength.

Sometimes I worry Blues music is in danger of becoming a parody of itself like Country does on occasion. I’m just waiting for someone to come up with a Blues version of the old joke about only needing a train, a pick up truck, you’re dog dying, and going to prison to have the necessary ingredients for writing a Country song.

But then, thankfully along comes a singer of the quality of Gina Sicilia. Her first release, Allow Me To Confess, (along with a few others), available on Swingnation Records, has gone a long way to restoring my confidence in the next generation of Blues’ musicians.

Now if only the guys could get it together. Oh well we all know boys take a lot longer to grow up than women so there’s still hope for them too.
By Richard Marcus.
**
On Allow Me to Confess, her recording debut, 22-year old Gina Sicilia comes across as a young Etta James, both in the power of her voice and in her repertoire. Based in Philadelphia and more experienced than one would expect from someone at her young age, she performs blues, blues ballads, soul, and some 1960s-style R&B. While guitarist/producer Dave Gross gives some of the songs a 1950s jump blues feel, Sicilia sings a tune apiece from Big Maybelle, Esther Phillips, and Etta James, plus her own originals. Whether any of her songs will catch on as future R&B/blues standards is open to question, but certainly Gina Sicilia will be a force in this music for many years to come. ~ Scott Yanow

Philadelphia’s own Gina Sicilia began singing at the age of three and hasn’t stopped since. Exposed to music early on by her parents, Gina grew up listening to Doo-Wop and the music of the 50’s & 60’s. Upon hearing blues legend Bobby Bland for the first time at the age of 14, she was instantly enthralled by the raw emotion and power of blues & soul. After years of polishing her vocal and songwriting skills, she began singing in clubs around the Philadelphia area, and began performing at such acclaimed venues as Warmdaddy’s, Steel City Coffee House, AJ’s Blue Thursdays, Scotland Yard and the Bluetone Cafe. More than just a throwback to the great blues & soul vocalists of the 50’s & 60’s, Gina uniquely separates herself from the pack of current vocalists with a style that is neither forced nor cliche.

Now 21, this soulful, passionate blues vocalist and songwriter has just completed her debut album. Entitled “Allow Me To Confess”, this project had been a long time in the making. The record is a reflection of Gina’s diverse musical talent and tastes, and of the years she spent honing her vocal chops and songwriting skills. The album consists of eleven soul-stirring tracks, eight of which were written by Gina herself. “Allow Me To Confess” was produced by 2007 Blues Music Awards Nominee, Dave Gross, who also lends his own guitar playing to the mix. Backed by a cast of some of the finest in the business, Gina’s powerful vocal delivery and range command the attention of the listener throughout the entire album, with a conviction not found in many other artists. Having already shared the stage with such notables as Steve Guyger, Arthur Neilson, Dennis Gruenling and Peter Karp, among many other blues & roots heavyweights, Gina has developed a confidence and competence that belies her age.

As a songwriter, Gina has proven herself to have a deep understanding of American roots music, as well as the ability to compose music that perfectly suits her unique persona. Her expertly crafted songs pay homage to the great roots music of the past, which has inspired Gina throughout the years, and now comes full circle to help her create her own distinct voice in this American art form.

Gina’s potential as a vocalist and songwriter is boundless. She is sure to make her mark among a new generation of blues artists.
**
Gina Sicilia- (Vocals);
V.D. King- (Guitar);
Matt Swift- (Violin);
Matt Stewart- (Trumpet);
Deborah Gross, Nicole Hart, Nicolette Hart- (Background Vocals);
Arthur Neilson- (Guitar, Mandolin);
Dave Gross- (Guitar, bBackground Vocals);
Dennis Gruenling- (Harmonica);
Karel Ruzicka, Jr.- (Alto, Tenor Sax);
Rob Chaseman- (Baritone Sax);
Lance Ong- (Piano, Organ, Background Vocals);
Scot Hornick- (Bass);
Mike Bram- (Drums).
**
01. That’s a Pretty Good Love 2:46
02. I Ain’t Crazy 4:08
03. Try Me 3:14
04. One of Many 3:53
05. Pushover 3:01
06. Rest of My Days 4:54
07. Allow Me to Confess 5:07
08. You Set My Heart on Fire 3:54
09. There Lies a Better Day 4:26
10. That Much Further 4:31
11. When My Ship Comes In 2:50
**

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