Alice Smith - She (2013)

Alice Smith
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When you have influences as wide-ranging as alternative, afro-punk and bluesy-tinged pop, oscillated between homes in Georgia and Washington DC and have a vocal range that recalls a Fiona Apple rather than a Ledisi, it's practically a given that you are not a cookie-cutter R&B artist.  And over the past seven years too many listeners have been deprived of that uniqueness that is Alice Smith. It's been years since her debut, 2006's celebrated For Lovers, Dreamers & Me (which was re-released by Epic Records a year after its initial release), but instead of remaining stymied by the label's ill-fitting assembly-line approach to promoting her work, Ms. Smith kept it moving---writing, singing and producing new material, growing her fan base with critcally-acclaimed live performances across the country and becoming a mother . These are, just a few of the lifestyle and relationship shifts that are covered in Ms.
When you have influences as wide-ranging as alternative, afro-punk and bluesy-tinged pop, oscillated between homes in Georgia and Washington DC and have a vocal range that recalls a Fiona Apple rather than a Ledisi, it's practically a given that you are not a cookie-cutter R&B artist.  And over the past seven years too many listeners have been deprived of that uniqueness that is Alice Smith. It's been years since her debut, 2006's celebrated For Lovers, Dreamers & Me (which was re-released by Epic Records a year after its initial release), but instead of remaining stymied by the label's ill-fitting assembly-line approach to promoting her work, Ms. Smith kept it moving---writing, singing and producing new material, growing her fan base with critcally-acclaimed live performances across the country and becoming a mother . These are, just a few of the lifestyle and relationship shifts that are covered in Ms. Smith's affecting and introspective follow-up, She.
 
Thanks to a lilting croon, sophisticated storyline narratives and a fearless melding of multiple styles (a twist of country, a dash of pop, etc.), Alice and her pair of collaborators (Syience and Rebecca Jordan) create lush musical landscapes with haunting mid-tempos like "Ocean" and the shimmery dance groove of "Shot," a tale of two souls colliding out of nowhere and realizing a powerful connection: "She had no plans to, know anybody new/ she had decided to take time to be on her own. But when he came to her, began to talk to her, he talked just like he knew her, and before she started she was shot, shot, shot, shot through the heart...."
 
The song titles are as straight-forward as the voice that fleshes them out, but what will keep the listener captivated are all of the twists and turns through whichAlice takes them with that mesmerizing vocal range. The ballad "Be Easy" has a hazy, drifting feel, while a rocker edge fuels the feverish "Another Love," a track so angst-ridden that Alice practically sings through her teeth. The most unabashedly urbanized track on the CD, "Fool For You," is a throbbing slow-sizzle of a groove that throatily declares  undying love while Alice rails against his hold on her heart: "That real that deep that burnin' and amazin' unconditional insatiable love/ That feel like forever, always emotional, but still feels sensational love. Cain't nobody tell me nuthin' except 'it is what it is/any any mistake that you make I just might forgive."
 
Clever, charismatic, and eclectic as all get-out, Alice Smith used her time away from the spotlight wisely. She could be too cerebral or strident for some, but for the discriminating 'against the grain' music lover, the contents demonstrate why the performer took so long and, at the same time, why it's so worth the wait. Highly Recommended.
 
By Melody Charles
 
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