This spring R&B singer Alice Smith
released her second album, She
(Rainwater/Thirty Tigers), after a delay of more than six years thanks to a bruising major-label entanglement, and she closes it with an assertion of her independence: “She had a power that they tried to tame / Couldn’t tame her.” Smith blazes her own path musically, paying little mind to current R&B (no hip-hop flavor, no overdone melisma, no electronic beats, no samples) and instead serving up a melange of nostalgic girl-group sounds, 70s soul, taut singer-songwriter ballads, and rhythmic flourishes borrowed from go-go music. She deploys her rafter-raising voice judiciously over stripped-down live-band arrangements, inhabiting them like a favorite T-shirt—versatile, well-fitting, and comfortable. It takes guts to cut against the grain, but the music Smith is making more than supports her choice to do so. —Peter Margasak Nina Rae opens.