New Zealand's Gin Wigmore is a lot of badass fun
So, I was perusing the new music releases over on iTunes a couple weeks back and stumble across this chick with a wild name and sexy/sophisticated album cover. Do I check it out?
Does the Pope shit in the woods?
Is the bear Catholic?
Yes, of course I check it out, and what I found in the preview clips is one cool, bizarre album. Gravel and Wine features Gin's extremely unique voice with music influences of 50's doo-wop, 80's new wave, blues and swing jazz. Imagine a wild fusion of Amy Winehouse, Billy Holiday and Toni Basil (Hey Mickey) that somehow comes together to form a very weird, wild, fierce, blistering, endearing, funny collection of bad ass sweetness.
Well, in many ways it is perplexing, but she still brings it all together somehow. One moment I'm thinking Gin's voice is annoying as shit, and the next I think she's absolutely brilliant. It's a study in contradictions from beginning to end, and I think that's exactly what Gin was going for.
My favorite song on the album is the opener, Black Sheep (see above). It's hot, tough, nasty, bluesy, rocking, yet she never takes herself too seriously. Following that is Man Like That, which is a fantastic, jump-out-of-your-chair, swing jazz number that's absolutely infectious.
Next up are the theatrical, Halloweenish numbers Poison, Kill Of The Night and Devil In Me. Love how she plays around with these songs in a playful yet naughty way.
If Only represents a sharp change of pace, where she transitions from the ghoulishly dirty to a soft and tender sock hop styling. It throws you for a loop, continuing the delightfully unpredictable twists and turns of the album that continue throughout.
Dirty Love gets back in that dirty groove again, while Happy Ever After offers a swampy, bluesy romp where Gin again sings about ghoulish plans for Mr. Wrong. Love it from the opening bars.
Saturday Smile is a slow, forgettable, sappy ballad that I could do without. The gratuitous, plodding, melodramatic "Undone" type song (my fellow Haley Reinhart fans will understand the reference) that I just can't stand. My guess is the label pushed her to include that one, just as I believe my Haley got shoved into adding her token sap ballad on her eclectic and creative debut album Listen Up!
Moving right along, Sweet Hell gets back to Gin's fun, feisty rocker style, while Singing My Soul slows things down in an acoustic, folky, yummy way. Love the way Gin grinds out the gravel in her voice on this one.
Don't Stop is the final track, and ties things together nicely with a happy, uptempo mood that's a perfect way to finish up the album. Leaves a good taste in your mouth and vibe in your head.
Again, I credit Gin for being such a different kind of artist, who loves to push buttons, get sexy, then twist it all around in unpredictable fashion, yet never becomes pretentious or phony. It's unlike any other album I own, and yet it has elements of everything in my collection. Gin pushes envelopes, but in a way that's intelligent, tasteful, and puts a smile on your face.
I couldn't loop Gravel & Wine repeatedly (like I'm doing now with Crystal Bowersox's amazing new LP All That For This) because the sound would get annoying after awhile, but it's a fantastic change of pace album that is worth every penny. Big props to Gin for writing and recording one wildly creative LP that stands out like a stunning, shimmering gemstone in a sea filled with dull, sound-alike crap.
One final interesting tidbit. About a week after buying Gravel and Wine I came to learn she'll be opening for Phillip Phillips on his headliner tour. Being a MONSTER P2 fan, let me say this combo is fucking perfect.