It is not to disparage Gina Sicilia
in any way to say that she has come of age with her ninth album, Love Me Madly
. Produced by North Mississippi Allstars
' Cody Dickinson
and prominently featuring Luther Dickinson
, his sibling and co-founder of that group, the record carries some cosmetic similarities to the vintage sound of Philadelphia Int'l, but it is less glossy and more earthy, a deceptively sophisticated effort rendered all the more impressive for elaborate touches that never sublimate the soul in the music.
Comprised of original material wholly written together by the artist and producer, the run time of just about thirty-three minutes belies the range of material and treatment proffered by Sicilia, the Dickinsons and a full corps of singers and players (including strings and horns courtesy Mark Franklin, once of Gregg Allman
and Friends.) "Like The World Has Never Seen," for instance, consists of little more than primal drums and Sicilia's guttural intonations, so while it might call to mind an ancient chain-gang chant. Yet the sound of her voice nevertheless carries just the slightest hint of winsome melody, a burgeoning element that flowers to the fullest by the time Franklin plays his trumpet solo on "Hey Love." And even that layered pop-oriented production has nothing on the hook-laden "Lose My Head."
A verse-chorus-verse-bridge structure there emphasizes the ease by which Sicilia can glide up to a falsetto from her naturally throaty register. Complete seemingly just as it's begun, that efficiently-arranged cut gives way to the neo-soul of "For A Little While," where the elder Dickinson's weeping slide guitar finds an ultra-effective complement in the comforting swells of organ played by Rev. Charles Hodges, long-time resident of the Royal Studios in Memphis where this record was tracked. "Misery With You" also features Luther's guitar on a bed of orchestration that only highlights the differing yet complementary textures of both those instrumental components.
There the efficacy of Cody's audio mix, subsequently mastered by Stephen Marsh, becomes unmistakable (if it hasn't already). Yet as if to reinforce the pointand spotlight the expertise of the track sequencing herestreamlined strings appear on "Give It Up," where Gina Sicilia unleashes her most abandoned vocal of the record. The infectious likes of "How My Dreams Go" immediately follows, its ever-so-slight traces of reggae fortifying exactly how upbeat is this performance, including, not surprisingly, a joyous back and forth between the Dickinson's guitar and the horn section. And it's all capped by the wordless singing of the frontwoman who sounds like she couldn't resist chiming in.
"Answer The Phone" begins with her unaccompanied singing, a maneuver that magnifies the dramatic effect of this closer. So, when the sound expands to include acoustic guitars, keyboards and a pointed drumbeat (from the producer), the shortest cut on Love Me Madly
sounds like it carries the greatest depth of emotion of all eleven. Listeners will no doubt want to hear the album again in its entirety to be sure, a compelling dynamic that will only serve to illustrate the emotional authenticity and versatility within this durable work of Gina Sicilia's.
Like the World Has Never Seen; Hey Love; Lose My Head; For A Little While; Gotta Be A Way; Misery With You; Love Me Madly; Give It Up; How My Dreams They Go; Fall In Love ; Answer The Phone.