Jessie Smith – a self-described “swampy, soulful” vocalist whose work has won accolades ranging from national press and radio praise to hometown Nashville acclaim – has no fear of darkness in her music. Instead, she professes instead an actual desire to wrap herself in it. “What I want in my own music is the sound of crying,” she explains. “When I sing, I want my voice to sound like weeping.”
(Listen to “In the Morning” as premiered on The Bluegrass Situation recently.)
This emotional approach is no less in evidence in Smith’s forthcoming album, Like the Sun, which marks her debut full-length collection of songs. The set was entirely written or co-written by Smith herself, and presents a cohesive snapshot of her taste for and unique take on old soul and blues music. Fans of Al Green, Gladys Knight, Billie Holiday, the Mavis Staples singers, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding will recognize Smith’s call to feel the pain, get messy with emotion, and emerge finally with a different take on life in general.
Indeed, it’s this appreciation for transformation that informs Like the Sun overall, from its title to its rich, poignant lyrical and melodic content. “There’s a line in my song ‘In the Morning,’ that says, ‘like the sun I rise,’ and that sums up this album well,” Smith notes. “It’s about coming out of dark pain and coming out the other side. It’s a lot about self-love, marriage, and authenticity.” Smith’s vocals evoke this range admirably; earning critical raving commentary such as “powerful,” “amazing,” and “can’t keep that down.”
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