Music News

April Smith and the Great Picture Show: Songs for a Sinking Ship, in "Nothing Not New"

Artist: April Smith and the Great Picture Show

Title: Songs for a Sinking Ship
Release date: February 23
Label: April Smith

Here's one for fans of musical theater. With a flair for the dramatic, April Smith and her band weave in and out of various old-timey American musical idioms: Dixieland, ragtime, swing, doo-wop. It's all very capably performed and not unappealing, but I have to ask: Who's listening to this?

I'm sure there are plenty of people who would dig April Smith (mostly people who watch Grease 2 when it shows up on cable), but how is this CD going to get in their hands?

It looks as though April Smith is playing a couple of shows at South by Southwest. Good for her. I hope she gets some good exposure and performs in front of the right people (namely, someone who will distribute and market her correctly). She's really got a great voice, big and brassy with a lot of personality. To me, she sounds like a more conventionally talented Gwen Stefani. 

In a live setting, with her backing band playing banjo and upright bass and trumpet, I'll bet she really delivers. On her record, though . . . Well, it sounds like the soundtrack to Grease 3, starring April Smith as Sandy's niece. The songs themselves are decent genre exercises, but the modern production values (especially on the weird, big rock drum sound) diminish their appeal.

Best song: "Dixie Boy" best shows off Smith's considerable vocal talents. "Wow and Flutter" has a great reference to Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)."
Rotation: Medium.
Deja Vu: TV
I'd rather listen to: "Don't Speak" by Gwen

Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett