ALICIA SMITH: For Lovers, Dreamers and Me: CD

Although the press material says Smith “evokes influences” including Patti Labelle, Barbara Streisand, and Billie Holiday, she sounds nothing like these singing legends. What she does share with them, however, is an ability to transcend (or in her case wholly bypass) current popular trends in music and stake out a little place all her own. Marrying strong vocals to a concoction of jazz, psych-tinged pop and nouveau soul, Smith demonstrates some range and a desire to experiment outside the box. She eschews the heavy reliance on scales, 808-beats and self-demeaning lyrics so frequently found in modern soul/hip hop in favor of a more organic approach with what sounds like real, honest-to-goodness instruments. Dunno if it’ll garner massive radio airplay, but it should, and when it works, like on “Love Endeavor,” and the velvety “Secrets,” some mighty good listening is afoot. My requisite gripe? Where’s the cover of the Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection,” which features this album’s title in its lyrics?

 –jimmy (Heroes)