Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Gabriela Pepino - Let Me Do It

The music market has experienced a keen influx of soul singers from the United Kingdom over the past several years, seeing performers like Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, and, perhaps most notably, Adele, flood the market with their signature fusions of old school vibes with modern sensibilities. And music lovers have eaten in up, buying up their albums in droves and launching a soul revolution throughout music.

Now, it’s another country’s turn to shine in the soul spotlight as Brazilian native, Gabriela Pepino, makes her Ultra Music Records debut with, Let Me Do It.
Pepino is no stranger to the music world, having studied at both Brazil’s Babaya Escola de Canto and the prestigious Berklee College of Music here in the States. She’s taken that experience and knowledge and has thus far parlayed it into a successful career that’s found her performing worldwide at festivals worldwide, showcasing her chops with genres as diverse as jazz, blues, soul, and pop.

Those are the very building blocks the artist uses to build her sonic foundation on Let Me Do It, drawing from what she knows while stretching herself as well, choosing to produce the album herself while performing the record in English, her second language, citing simple musical intuition.
“It was bigger than me! I've been writing these songs for the past four years!" she shares.

It was four years of hard work that’s paid off for the most part as Pepino delivers plenty of retro blues and soul backed by a stirring band. Gilvan de Oliveira provides the musical arrangements and plays guitar while musicians such as Lincoln Cheib (Drums) and Adriano Campagnani (Bass) provide plenty of skillful support.
Campagnani’s throbbing upright bass sets the tone early on in the title track and with Pepino’s first notes, listeners are drawn in. Her voice is smooth and sexy, the sensuous vocals wrapping around the lyrics with ease, teasing each note for all it’s worth, scatting along the way. “If I Lived In France” hints at some French elements with a lighthearted keyboard line and playful delivery from the artist while “Headache” finds Pepino chewing lyrics off and spitting them out with vigor, the soundscape classic soul.

Pepino’s voice shows some smoky notes on the bluesy “Dose of Scotch,” tasteful hints of saxophone lending depth to the track and “I Don’t Wanna Fight” bridges things into more adult contemporary territory, letting her vocal range warm up before soaring for the heights on the piano-driven ballad, “Unexpected.” “Deepest Shadow” draws strength from some moving strings and well-placed keyboards that lend an extra emotive note as Pepino duets with guest, Marina Machado.
“Change” moves things back into soul territory, horns and organ fills giving life while “I Can’t Wait” showcases some funky bass notes and solid percussion before Pepino declares herself even more capable of blues on the appropriately titled, “My Blues.” Saving her most prominent jazz roots for last, Pepino slips into her most comfortable, crooning effortlessly through the longing lyrics of “Someone to Light Up My Life.”

There are only a few missteps on this most promising of albums. “My Dream Is You” is the first of those stumbles, the soulful arrangement lost due to some muted production, a theme that pokes its head out at various junctures throughout the record, and a rather stilted vocal performance from the artist. “Baby” is the other downfall, the peppy piano fine but Pepino’s vocal just seeming to stumble a bit, her phrasing just not as sound as is found throughout the rest of the work.
Yet, two errors don’t erase the fact that Gabriela Pepino is a young woman with considerable talent and an old soul. She continuously conjures up images of classic soul singers, bringing a retro vibe to contemporary songs that blend jazz, blues, and soul together seamlessly. It’s the rare artist who can manage that and there’s little doubt that Let Me Do It will be the album to help propel Gabriela Pepino into that next level.

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