Summary

In 2006, Alice Smith released For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, one of the most remarkable debut albums of the year. Epic consequently signed the soul-rooted, cross-genre singer/songwriter and re-circulated the album in 2007. The deal raised awareness -- Smith was nominated for a 2008 Grammy in the shamefully short-lived Best Urban/Alternative Performance category -- but was disastrous for her career. An album, along with other recordings, was shelved. Several years passed without a follow-up. Smith became a mother, moved from her native New York to Los Angeles, and continued to perform. Freed from Epic and on the label operated by husband Citizen Cope (himself a survivor of the major-label ringer), Smith is finally able to re-introduce her absorbing life-and-love lyrics, distinctive melodic sense, and four-octave voice. She does so with assistance from her husband, Rebecca Jordan, and Syience (Beyoncé, Marsha Ambrosius, Ne-Yo), together with a core group of musicians that features keyboardist James Poyser (Erykah Badu, the Roots). Two of her first album's many attractive attributes were the subtle and surprising twists in song structure and seamless genre fusions. They're in steady supply here, as on "Ocean," a blissfully flowing expression of romantic contentedness, and on the emotionally stinging "Another Love," an astoundingly fluid piece that, at once, is an attitudinal house stomper and a disarming chamber pop tearjerker. Smith can switch up the lyrical tone with as much finesse; she ends the first verse of the Carole King-worthy "The One" with "Tell me anything, just to get what you want," then begins the chorus with "But I'm not the one/Don't play me, son." She has enough skill and character to leave one hanging on her every note. The cherry on top is an incineration of Cee Lo Green's "Fool for You," one of her most commanding performances and the album's funkiest moment. Green's only rational response would be genuflection -- an appropriate action for anyone within earshot, really. ~ Andy Kellman