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Gina Sicilia featuring Dave Gross
The Alamo – Springfield IL November 12, 2007

Review by Ben Cox

He made it look easy and she made her voice sound effortless. In the three years I’ve been going to the Alamo in Springfield, never in the time have I gone there not seen the featured performers break a sweat. The friendly confines of the Alamo are always warm and sultry, like a warm night in a juke joint in Mississippi. Needless to say, these two new East Coast Blues phenomena were as cool as an Upstate New York club.

Sicilia’s vocals ranged from rabid howling and meowing to out and out smooth, sultry, and soulful and at barely over 20 years of age, purely brilliant. Gross, the obvious band leader navigated a crash course between chunky Delta blues to the sophistication of the urban blues and swing of the late 40s and 50s with jazz stylings like influence T-Bone Walker and tonal quality like that of the early Kent Recordings of BB King.

Needless to say, on this rainy night in Springfield; the crowd that trickled in slow at first, and then full by 11PM were served up with heavy doses of foot-tapping delight and the awe of two young virtuosos commanding the stage.

Sicilia’s only flaw was in her nerves. At times, the young belter of soul and blues seemed to step behind the shadows of Gross’ guitar and in the shades of Dan Hill, the other fellow guitar player. These however were very sustainable shadows that she easily peeked out from behind these shadows to give us glimpses of a diva ready to take command. As the time passed, Sicilia seemed to ease into her singer’s chair and share herself more with the crowd; and give them more of what they wanted, some great female blues power!

The other musicians, who were equally as brilliant, were also given equal times in the spotlight taking turns on the old Elmore James classic “Shake Your Moneymaker” to solo after the first set. Hill, who often gigs with the great guitar player of latter day Muddy Waters, Bob Margolin in his home state of North Carolina easily, conjured both influences at the drop of a hat with ease and superiority. Hill effortlessly turned the switch to match his counterparts on the jazzy side of the blues. The rhythm section of Steve Poz and Scot Hornick also demonstrated the splash and in-the-pocket stylings of jazz aficionados. However, the band never being bigger than the sum of its parts, could easily slide behind Sicilia’s vocals unnoticed and then reform and repower out into the spotlight in the constant play that is any improvisational music.

Near the end of the night, Gross and company were given the opportunity to shine a little more as Gross took the mic and the lead into two songs that kept the crowd toe-tapping on into the midnight hour. It is needless for me to say that next time this group comes through Central Illinois that you should get yourself out and see two of the most exciting new young people on the blues circuit today! Oh, and keep your eye out to Sicilia’s follow-up album due out next year.

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