Debi Smith,
The Soprano
(independent, 2007)

The Soprano is a kitchen-sink album, a flat-out showcase for Debi Smith's voice -- which is, by any measurement, pretty spectacular. She has, as the album title indicates, a soprano that is as pure and clear as uncharted waters and, on this release, the inclination to show us exactly what she can do with it.

Those fans who know her from the Smith Sisters or Four Bitchin' Babes -- the two bands she is best known for associating with -- are, even though they are familiar with most of her music, going to be in for a bit of a surprise here; Smith does opera, art songs, traditional folk material, her own compositions, even the "Star Spangled Banner" -- she is all over the musical map. Oh, and the package comes with a second CD of Christmas music.

How does she do with all of this stuff? For the most part, very well. Smith can sing almost anything. Give her a couple of pages from a hard-boiled mystery novel from the 1930s to sing and she'll make it sound good. Her talent and ability is never in question.

There is, though, a question of focus. If you've seen a Bitchin' Babes show, then you know that in the second half, when the Babes cut loose, Smith has been known to sing an aria. With three other women performing with her, each showing off a specialty, it works. On a CD, however, we expect a tighter focus, more of a stylistic unity. With Smith stretching in all directions at once, as she does, casual listeners might be confused and possibly even put off.

Her long-time fans, though, are likely to be delighted -- if they don't find the material too familiar; some Smith favorites are repeated here, some in versions lifted directly from earlier albums.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 July 2008

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