Alice Smith: For Lovers, Dreamers & Me

[1 January 2008]

By Michael Arceneaux

Sweet Dreams

It’s hard to place Alice Smith in a box. Sure with such a soulful voice, it would be easy to dismiss her as some Alicia Keys wannabe, but her genre-hopping debut, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, is far too broad for that comparison to fly. There’s a demure quality to her that recalls chanteuses like Norah Jones and Sade, but Smith’s album also includes quite a degree of fury. So just how do you describe the 27-year-old sultry songstress? Is she a soul singer? A rocker? A jazz enthusiast? An old blues fanatic? Yes to all with a little bit of country to boot, if we’re being technical. That’s what makes For Lovers, Dreamers & Me such a thrill to listen to. It’s a versatile record, encompassing a wide range of sounds and emotions, each highlighting Smith’s myriad of influences.

For Lovers, Dreamers & Me was originally issued last year on indie label BBE. Upon its release, Smith received a sea of praise from various publications, all commending her songwriting and her voice, dubbing her an artist to watch, and ultimately catching the attention of major labels. Now that Smith has signed with Epic, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me has been re-released with the hopes of it catching the attention of the masses. So is she really the next big thing? One can only hope, as Alice Smith is a welcomed addition to a music industry that has become quite complacent with shoving out cookie cutter offerings so long as they sell enough ring tones.

The album kicks off with the exquisite “Dream”, a soulful yet funky groove that comes across as a slower, freaked out version of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets”. “Dream” features an alluring Smith assuring her darling beau that there’s no one more capable of fulfilling his needs than she is. The song, which Smith wrote, is sung with such a degree of confidence and sophistication that you can’t help but hang on to her every word.

You to tend to hang on to almost everything she says, as Smith’s voice commands your attention throughout the album. You hear the strength of her much-lauded four-octave range in the rock-leaning “New Religion” and “Gary Song”. She sings the former with a booming display of agility. Songs like “Know That I” and “Secrets” prove that, while Smith may know the power of her voice, she still fully grasps the adage that dictates less is more. Both songs show Smith maintaining impeccable control, making sure she doesn’t over-sing the song and spoil the vulnerability she seeks to convey. More of those sentiments are expressed in the reggae-inspired “Do I”. The gloomy production accents Smith’s voice perfectly, making the track even more compelling.

For Lovers, Dreamers & Me gives you an inside look of what’s going on in Alice Smith’s heart, but she doesn’t thwart the opportunity to share what’s in her head. With “Fake Is the New Real”, a bold Smith declares, “Rock and roll is dead / The girls and boys of the Mickey Mouse Club clocked it in the head”.  She gets even blunter with the line, “If honesty will put you in jail, you know we’re living in phony times”. Can you really argue with either claim? She just may be on to something with the catchy, yet thought-provoking chorus: “Bona fide is an old deal, fake is the new real”.

For Lovers, Dreamers & Me is a vibrant and imaginative debut with scores of different layers to it—- no doubt like the eclectic artist behind it. It celebrates the joys of love and the pains that come with it. It exudes confidence, yet vulnerability. It’s expressive and thoughtful. It’s all these things wrapped in skilled production and blissful harmonies. With a candor equally as powerful as the voice behind it, Smith is a breath of fresh air, and an artist definitely worth her sizable and still growing hype.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/alice-smith-for-lovers-dreamers-me1/