Gizelle Smith
Jalapeno Records

Gizelle Smith’s sonic palette is broadened for her third studio album – rock, pop and electronica influences are now woven into the mix alongside the classic soul and funk that she’s been known for since breaking through with her 2009 debut LP with The Mighty Mocambos.

The recent death of her father Joe Smith, former guitarist, musical director and songwriter for Motown legends The Four Tops, prompted a radical rethink for album three. “I was pretty much emotionless towards music in general and had lost all sense of direction with my own artistry,” explains Smith. “My whole identity as a songwriter and musician vanished into the ether with my dad, like a cord had been severed.”

Smith changed tack and during a 10-day writing spree in New York worked on crafting new material with producer Steffen Wagner and her fiancé, bassist Joseph Sam.

Opener Agony Road deals directly with the loss her father, a powerful evocation of the seven stages of grief while the funky pulse of Superstar delves into the notion of modern-day fame. Meanwhile, backed with slick 70s wah wah guitar textures, shuffling drums and Sam’s walking bassline, Better Remember (They’re Controlling You) is an impassioned plea for personal freedom.

An ambitious reworking of Kate Bush’s King Of The Mountain will be the talking point for many and Smith pulls off the challenge with aplomb. Bush’s understated opener to 2005’s Aerial double album is rebooted here with electronic pulses and given a slyly funky makeover. The Girl Who Cried Slow mines darker territory while Miss World (Less Is More) is a sweeping string-filled ballad.

Vocal similarities with fellow Mancunian, the much-missed Denise Johnson, may be entirely coincidental but like the former Primal Scream vocalist, Gizelle Smith has a talent that shines across multiple genres. Steve Harnell