Independent (release date: January 10, 2020)
By Bob Marovich
On her new, self-titled album, the St. Louis-based singer-songwriter Erica Reed journeys into new production territory.
For example, atmospheric electronica and 808 beats propel several selections, such as “Enough,” where Reed testifies about Jesus’s ability to heal suffering. “Get Up” is a call to celebrate and dance out our differences and divisions rather than ruminate on them. The sunny “New Day” weaves its call to discipleship in ‘80s Madonna-like snappiness.
On the other hand, “Sorry,” with its heartbeat rhythm, has a small combo sound, a memorable melody, and lyrics that hint at a fascinating story behind the song. It evokes the pop sensibility of Reed’s magnum opus, “Never Let Go,” from her 2011 album, Sold Out.
The current single, “Standing at the Gates,” released last year, is the album’s best musical moment. To a warbling organ and electric guitar, Reed pleads with the passion of a church singer for the gates of Heaven to open. It’s here, more than anywhere else on the album, that you can feel her lifelong relationship with the Baptist church come to full flower.
As “Sorry” suggests, Reed is at her best when she sings in her mid-range, where her voice sounds most comfortable and natural. One exception is “Tired,” a moody ballad on which Reed belts out a spiritual remedy for life’s disappointments.
Yes, the album Erica Reed finds the soprano (and restaurateur) Erica Reed exploring new territory, but her ballads with a traditional combo are still tops in my book.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “Sorry,” “Standing at the Gates”