Gina Sicilia

Gina Sicilia
Hey Sugar

Swingnation Records
VizzTone Label Group - SNCD

By Georgetown Fats
January 2009

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Somewhere along the line, someone introduced Gina Sicilia to torch songs. This may have been the same person who instilled in her the integrity to sing from her heart rather than lend her voice to pop music. This person or people are owed a great deal of gratitude for pointing Sicilia in the right direction musically.

On her second release on Swingnation Records, Hey Sugar, Sicilia manages to channel Nina Simone and Lena Horne by laying down incredibly smoky vocals over a seven-piece band featuring an updated version of Kansas City Blues. From the opening track, “Going Home Baby, “ Sicilia is a force to be reckoned with - by supplying an improbable amount of tone to passionate vocals for someone born in the early 1980s.

Dave Gross, producer and guitar player for the Hey Sugar sessions, mixes the band at just the right level to never interfere with Sicilia, but also letting strong session musicians shine when appropriate.

The second track, “So Attracted to You,” is a smoldering track about unacknowledged love. Clearly the inspiration behind the track is either in a committed relationship, or utterly clueless. The innuendo has all the subtlety of a jackhammer, which is to say itís perfect. The backing band once again navigates between a Kansas City feel, with some brief Bossa Nova sections.

The muted trumpet work of Jon-Erik Kellso ,and clarinet of Gerry Niewood, also deserve mentioning, as both lines bring an awful lot of sizzle to this track.

As Grossí opening guitar riff leads into a Dennis Gruenling harp solo on “Kissing in the Dark,” I could not help but wonder if I was going to need to take a fire extinguisher to my CD player - which has not had this strong a work out since my first exposure to Sugar Pie Desanto. Sicilia once again sets the mood by offering up some of her favorite things to do in the dark, while vocally towing the line between common decency and wanton desire.

I am only providing a selected review of the disc, because although all 13 songs have that similar torch song feel, all are awesome.

Sicilia is extremely confident in her niche, and Hey Sugar is bound to win multiple awards. I can not issue anything but kudos to Sicilia for following her passion, in more ways then one, and Gross for masterful work with the band and production. I can only hope both find personal and financial success in their chosen fields and genres as Hey Sugar is such a strong production it would be a shame to hear Sicilia distilled by pop music production.

Not only is this disc one of the best surprises of what I have reviewed for 2008, Hey Sugar is strong enough to make me check out Siciliaís and Grossí back catalog.

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