Review Summary: Looking for something fresh and diverse? Gin’s got just the tonic.
With a voice that slots somewhere in between that of Amy Winehouse and Macy Gray, 23 year old blonde bombshell Virginia ‘Gin’ Wigmore is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The sultry, heavily tattooed New Zealand born singer-songwriter owns a unique and distinctive rasp which is certain to have some listeners pressing the “stop” button before the first track has even finished. The patient among us however, will be rewarded with what is ultimately a fresh and diverse album that belies its debut LP status.
The secret to the success of ‘Holy Smoke’ is in the description of it as “diverse”. While most releases broadly classified as soul-pop/nu-soul tend to only switch between two paces, Gin has crafted an album which dips its toes in multiple genres. This may sound like a bold experiment that is destined to fail, but Ms. Wigmore pulls it off with strength and confidence due to the company she has surrounded herself with. First is the choice of American producer and co-writer Mike Elizondo, who usually specializes in hip-hop. This is the same man who co-wrote Eminem’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and 50 Cent’s smash hit ‘In Da Club’. No, Gin never raps on ‘Holy Smoke’, but Elizondo’s presence gives the album a fresh, multi-faceted feel that cannot be under-estimated.
Even more integral to the success of ‘Holy Smoke’ is the existence of Ryan Adams’ former backing band; The Cardinals. Tight and efficient, the quartet effortlessly guide Wigmore through an assortment of musical styles. From the piano-bashing swaggering rock number ‘Mr, Freakshow’ to the laidback Jason Mraz like ‘I Do’, and from the catchy 1950’s rock-and-roller ‘One Last Look’ to the emotional closing ballad, these are experts at work. Even those tracks closest to filler have something to like about them (see the way in which ‘New Revolution’ builds up to a raucous guitar chord before assuredly falling back in volume), while semi-theatrical hooks such as the use of trumpets on 3rd single ‘Hey Ho’, horns on the likeable ‘Don’t Stop’ and strings on ‘Too Late For Lovers’, also come up trumps.
Elizondo and The Cardinals may be key components to the success of ‘Holy Smoke’, but to ignore the actual artist in question would be borderline criminal. Writing or co-writing all tracks on the LP, Gin Wigmore never allows her songs to fall into cliché or melodrama, while providing an impressive balance of accessible melodies and stirring soul. ‘Holy Smoke’ may be far from perfect since in providing the aforementioned variety, Wigmore is still searching for her perfect sound to elevate songs to the status of memorable. However, when considering this is a debut by such a young and unique artist, the talent is clear to be seen and her future should indeed be bright.
Recommended Tracks: Oh My, One Last Look, I Do & Don’t Stop.