Imagine being just twenty-two years old and having your debut CD rocket to the # 1 position on Bluesville, a channel on the XM Satellite radio network. Well that is just what happened to the incredibly talented Gina Sicilia, a Philadelphian who has been causing ears to perk up and radio DJs to spin her CD Allow Me To Confess.
Sicilia has already received international critical acclaim from those in the music industry and drawn high marks from legendary bluesman Bob Margolin. "I am taken with her ability to sing with both maturity and youthful fire, and that carries over into her songwriting and stage presence. Allow Me To Confess has been so well-received, and her power is exciting and obvious already," says Margolin.
Eight of the eleven tracks on Allow Me To Confess came straight from the pen of Sicilia and three songs were covers, "That’s A Pretty Good Love," (B. Lucas/E. Mendelsohn), the fun R&B tune "Pushover," first made popular by Etta James and the soulful "Try Me," originally recorded by Esther Phillips. At one time or another since the album was released earlier this year, all of the tracks have received airplay.
Many musical legends have their roots in songs that were added to records as an afterthought, or may have been borderline to make the final song selection. The album’s fifth track, "Pushover," is one of those songs. Sicilia is downright sassy, bold and demonstrates awesome vocal prowess as she sings,
"So you told all the boys that you were gonna take me out
Ya even ya even had the nerve to make a bet, yes you did
That I, I would give in all of my love you would win
But you haven’t, you haven’t won it yet
You took me for a pushover
Oh you thought I was a push over
Whoa I’m not a push over
You thought my love was easy to get"
About her take on "Pushover," Sicilia says, while laughing, "I am not sure if I am as sassy as the lyrics. I would say that I am a little bit more shy than that. I think you will have to ask somebody else if I am that sassy. I definitely like the lyrics and I am glad that I did that song. Originally, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do the song because I didn’t know if it would fit on the album. It is a fun song and I am glad that I did it."
On the recording of "Pushover," Sicilia was nicely complimented by backup singers Nicole Hart, Deborah Gross, Lance Ong, and producer Dave Gross (also an outstanding blues artist). During live performances, Sicilia says that she performs "Pushover," only when she is able to have a full compliment of musicians. As you listen to the CD and the fabulous playing of Karel Ruzicka Jr. (tenor/alto sax) and baritone sax man Rob Chaseman you will understand why Sicilia believes the tune is best appreciated with a fuller sound.
The R&B "Pushover," is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the discussing the amazingly talented Sicilia. Her original tune "One Of Many," is a missive to and about young women who find themselves in difficult circumstances. Sicilia tackles her own song in a fashion similar to blues icons like Memphis Minnie and modern day singer Maria Muldaur.
"It is really important to me that my lyrics have meaning. I am really big on lyrics. I get my inspiration from other people. I am a people watcher. I write about experiences that I have had or people I know have through. I think the song confronts issues that girls my age are experiencing," says Sicilia about a song whose vocal performance show maturity well beyond her years.
"One Of Many," also helps define Sicilia’s vision as a songwriter. She knew from the beginning that the song needed the sound of a harp and harmonica player Dennis Gruenling met the challenge and passed with flying colors. "I guess I pictured a Stevie Wonder kind of thing going with that song. I definitely knew what I wanted. I think that it ("One Of Many") is different and unique. It adds something different to the album, and right from the beginning I knew that is what I wanted," she says.
Songs such as the opening track "That’s A Pretty Good Love," "Allow Me To Confess," and "Try Me," are sung with raw emotion. Many artists take years to learn to pull that passion from inside themselves and to learn to be vulnerable in their performance and yet once again Sicilia demonstrates that has the ability to tap into those feelings but to evoke that kind of response from the listener. She has also surrounded herself with musicians whose licks and riffs are emotive, such as V.D. King’s guitar playing on "Allow Me To Confess." Rob Chaseman’s bluesy and moody baritone sax sets the mood for "You Set My Heart On Fire," with some excellent playing by trumpeter Matt Stewart.
She deliberately chose "Try Me," because it was a song that had not received a lot of exposure after Esther Phillips recording. "The first time that I heard "Try Me," I knew that I had to record it and it was just screaming to be remade. It is a really cool, unique song with awesome lyrics. It is a very soulful song. I love the song so much that I put a lot of feeling into it.
As song after song of the CD Allow Me To Confess roll out of your speakers, you realize that this lady is the whole package, songwriter, singer and performer. Another Sicilia original "There Lies A Better Day," is a song that one can easily envision legendary blues band Siegel-Schwall performing. Gruenling’s harmonica licks are incredible and Sicilia’s vocals both powerful and convincing.
"Singing is my passion and my first love. I love the art of singing and I sing constantly. I just hope that the way that I sing will reflect my love for music. I just want to be a reflection of my passion for music," says the singer.
Gina Sicilia is already preparing for her second album which is great news for music fans. She is scheduled to return to the studio late this fall. "For my next album, I want to step it up a little bit. I felt that my first album does not represent what I’m able to do vocally. Though it’s tempting, I avoid over singing and try to keep it tasteful, which is my objective for the next record. Again, there will be mostly original songs, but I’ve already chosen a few covers I want to do, including a Freddy King tune. There will be a little bit of traditional gospel material. I heavily influenced by the old gospel vocalists and vocal groups when it comes to vocalizing and songwriting. I feel even if you are not religious and cannot relate to the lyrics in the song, the music is still uplifting and inspirational. I adore it. I could listen to old gospel records for hours," Sicilia says.
"On the next record, I’m also going to include a singer/songwriter type song that I wrote. It is difficult to describe the style. It’s a mixture of different genres that inspire me, soul, country and folk. However, it is still blues based. I am very excited about the song, as I am the whole record," explains Sicilia.
Continuing to talk about her next project she says, "I have not selected all the material yet. I’m very, very picky when it comes to choosing songs to record. I like to make sure that each song is strong. For my debut (Allow Me To Confess), I always followed my gut instinct when it came time to choose the songs. I think the whole thing worked out pretty well!!" Your growing number of fans agrees with you Gina Sicilia.