Gina Sicilia Allow Me to Confess

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Gina Sicilia is older than 22 when listening to the debut recording by this soulful Philadelphia singer. Allow Me to Confess is an 11-song collection of ’50s R&B, ’60s styled soul stompers and ballads, slow blues and even a country waltz to keep things interesting. Comparisons to a young Etta James or Barbara Lynn are inevitable, as Sicilia has a powerful singing voice capable of emoting sweet tenderness one moment and displaying heartfelt vulnerability the next. What distinguishes Sicilia as a talent in the making, besides her singing, is the quality of the eight tracks she wrote. Using humour, as on "I Ain’t Crazy,” she sums it up by singing, "I ain’t crazy, baby, I’m just missing a few screws in my head.” There’s a serious side, as demonstrated during "One of Many,” a song about a young girl who, "left home at the age of 16, unstable and without self-worth, met a man who used up her body, to her that was what she deserved.” For lust, listen to Sicilia’s sensual desire during "You Set My Heart on Fire.” Obscure covers of Big Maybelle and Esther Phillips are welcome additions to the set. Producer Dave Gross, who plays guitar, has surrounded Sicilia’s voice with a warm, relaxed atmosphere of horns, acoustic bass and drums, with piano and organ adding lustre to the session. Gross is a top-notch player, contributing fine, jazzy, blues-infused solos throughout, particularly during the title track. (SwingNation)