Album Reviews

Ashleigh Smith

Sunkissed

Artist:     Ashleigh Smith

Album:     Sunkissed

Label:     Concord

Release Date:     08/26/2016

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As a former backup singer to R&B singer-songwriter, Chrisette Michele, Ashleigh Smith has never been out of touch with success. Breaking out on her own laurels is a different story, one that was born into reality after her win in the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocals competition. Even without that to pave her way, Smith’s success under her own name was an inevitability. The payoff comes in her debut, Sunkissed. Part her own creation and part refreshing takes on a variety of pop standards, Smith’s debut is a strong one, but is in need of a more inspired touch.

Everything is perfectly pleasant, of course. Sunkissed is the sonic picture of serenity with the comforting and balanced alto of Smith’s voice to carry the compilation of covers and originals to a satisfying conclusion. “Sara Smile” and the title track display the vocalist’s range and enthusiasm, both tracks dipping into influences of bright acoustic bossa nova and Latin jazz. If nothing else, Smith’s debut breaks down the identity of a background singer into a performer capable of claiming her own space.

The “pleasant” descriptor is something of a double-edged sword: easy to listen to but lacking any distinct impression. Tracks blend together with only the popularity of the covers to serve as cemented markers of progression throughout. Smith’s vocals bring clarity but the production, while tuneful and often richly percussive, sounds safe and uninspired. If anything this is a mere drop in the bucket. Smith’s star nevertheless shines bright on her debut with a voice capable of rendering the concepts of warmth and comfort into something almost tangible for the listener.

—Ziggy Merritt

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