It’s been a while since I’ve been in a club to hear live
music. A few weeks ago I caught a late
show at Nublu of an up-and-coming singer/songwriter, Alice Smith.

The room is packed to capacity, an enthusiastic crowd knows
the lyrics to her songs—they’re requesting favorites!—and there’s major label
A&R in the house.

I’m pleasantly surprised that not only am I hearing an
artist deserving of wider exposure, but I’m actually experiencing buzz.

Alice has a stage persona that’s playful and flirty: kind of
like a female Andre 3000. Her voice,
always rich, has this laid back, slightly southern quality. At its huskiest, I was reminded of Toni
, with hints of Fiona Apple. I’d
say that pop, R&B, Broadway–you name it—are her’s for the taking. But let’s hope that labels aren’t in such a
hurry to pigeonhole her, but are smart and motivated enough to market her
considerable talent.

It’s no secret that the image we often see of Black
musicians is one-dimensional. What I find so appealing about her is that her
aesthetic, her vibe, is rooted in an African-American experience—the blues–but
her music is in no way limited to what’s traditionally considered contemporary
“black” music, either in execution or song topics. Part of her appeal to the multicultural audience in attendance
that night is, I think, based on the fact that her songs cover a broad range of
topics, and that allows people multiple opportunities to engage. This is how she “keeps it real”. And, as Alain Thys wrote on the Futurelab blog, “You cannot fake
being authentic.”
Is this a case of
transculturalism creating an audience that’s open to black artists who don’t
fit neatly into corporate boxes? I’m at
least encouraged that the market might be ready.

Thanks to Vickie Starr, owner of media and marketing shop
Girlie Action for the heads up. My
hat’s off to her for her discerning eyes and ears.

If you’re in NYC on July 29, you can catch Alice at Central
Park Summerstage
with Goapele and female DJ crew Ladies of Ubiquita. The show’s free, but
you’d do well to arrive early.

Download my favorite Alice Smith track, “Woodstock”.Download 02_woodstock.mp3

Visit Alice’s MySpace page.

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Posted by Rob Fields

  • I’ve seen Alice a few times and was really blown away both times. Saw her last at the Rockwood Music Hall, and she wowed the packed crowd. Her music embraces all kinds of genres, not just within one album but within the same song. It’s truly urban music in the sense that it sounds as if her sound has evolved by being surrounded by numerous cultures, influences and lifestyles.

  • I agree, Glenn. There’s a lot of talk about authenticity and “keepin’ it real.” In Alice’s case, she’s doing just that, which is one reason people respond to her and her music. Here’s to more African American artists following suit. But, then again, it’s all about courage, isn’t it?