Gina Sicilia

Gina Sicilia
Allow Me to Confess

Swingtown Records
VizzTone Label Group

By Karen Nugent
August 2007

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Growing up in a music-loving family, Philadelphia native Gina Sicilia began singing when she was just three years old. Which explains why at 22, she is able to record a debut collection of diverse, songs - more than half of which she wrote herself.

The 11-song disc, while not strictly blues, has three standouts by blueswomen not heard often enough.

It opens with a super version of one of Big Maybelle Meriwetherís favorites, "Thatís a Pretty Good Love," an up-tempo, catchy number, made even better with the guitar-playing of Dave Gross, also 22, who is a co-producer of the album. Sicilia also does an obscure number by Esther Phillips, "Try Me," a slow blues ballad with haunting lyrics.

"Pushover," an Etta James song, while more like a 1950s doo-wop song, is fun. Sicilia said in the liner notes that she was unsure about including it, but decided it would add some lightheartedness to the record.

She grew up listening to 1950s and Ď60s rock-and-roll, and was inspired by the soul of Otis Redding, (obvious on the discís "Rest of My Days".) But Sicilia was turned onto the raw emotion of blues after hearing the legendary Bobby "Blue" Bland. She honed her songwriting and singing skills in clubs in the Philly area - in a throwback to Delta days when under-age bluesmen someone gained entrance to juke joints.

Siciliaís voice alone is worth it, along with Gross, and harpist Dennis Gruenling, who excels on "There Lies A Better Day" the best blues tune on the disc, and written by Sicilia herself.

Unfortunately, itís followed by a country song, "That Much Further," and "When My Ship Comes In," a slow, religious-like tune I could do without.

Gruenling, along with Lance Ong on piano and Mazz Swift on violin, is also great on "One Of Many" another original. The song, which has thoughtful lyrics, is about a young girl from Chicago who goes through all kinds of turbulence, including having a baby. ("She was one of many, troubles aplenty. She was a bright young girl with potential, but thatís not how she saw herself.")

"I Ainít Crazy" is a rockiní blues number, complete with piano, and a full band, including Scot Hornick on upright bass, Mike Bram on drums, Karel Ruzicka Jr. on tenor and alto sax, Rob Chaseman on baritone sax, and Matt Stewart in trumpet. The band is rounded out by V.D. King on rhythm guitar and Arthur Neilson on guitar and mandolin.

You can bet we will be hearing a lot of Sicilia for years to come.

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