Review by Cliff Clinton, E-zine Contributor/Blogger/Reviewer
I got a chance to review Erik Smallwood’s album earlier in the week, and I noted that Erik’s new work walks the line between country and singer/songwriter. Then I was handed Erica Sunshine Lee’s 10 song album, I’m Still Me, and I thought, “Whoa.” Because Erica really brings that country twang; nothing radio or dramatized about it. I read through the titles as I started to listen; “Drinking and Driving Me Crazy”, “South in Your Mouth”, and many more that caught me off-guard. What have I signed up for? Before I had even really gotten into it, I had a stigma about it. And slowly, Miss Sunshine Lee stripped that impression away and provided a full album that was damn near solid in a style I was not prepared for.
It should be noted that Erica’s songs, are a great combination of interesting storytelling with a classic take on a genre, but not every single song is deep poetry. In fact, back to back songs “South in Your Mouth” and “Whipped Cream” are devices of simple fun summer songs that don’t contain much substance. They also don’t need to (disagree? Go listen to Toby Keith’s recent hit “Red Solo Cup”). Part of Erica’s flair is her bubbly personality. But she doesn’t rely solely on that; hell, it’s the reason I like her so much. She is totally capable of doing a full album about different food groups and habits and daily decisions that has no depth at all, and it would sell a whole lot of copies. (I’d hate it but not be able to resist it), because it’s catchy; and it’s that good. But she digs deeper. “HO in RIO” tells an interesting story about a cheating man; “Reason to Leave” is about a couple who blame themselves for a bad relationship, and “You Make Me Wanna Believe” talks about inspiration. Again, if you just told me the basic outlines for these songs, I’d scoff. But Erica Sunshine Lee absolutely goes full out and tells truly unique stories; in one of her most brilliant lines, the man with the “HO in RIO” asks her to perform a sexual act in the little bit of Portuguese he knows. Brilliant.
Erica Sunshine Lee’s album is about not judging a book by its cover. Country? I probably would keep browsing. Reading through some of the song titles? I definitely would.
But this is one of those albums I’ve listened to over and over by choice, in my spare time. Erica’s music is infectious for the masses, an example of a very well executed album that can appeal to the biggest country fan or the most casual radio listener. She’s full of depth, full of passion, and I imagine full of a lot more great albums to come.
Visit Erica at her site: http://www.ericasunshinelee.com
Download her new single “Without you I’m still me” now available on ITunes!
Editor’s Note: It was hard for me to choose just ONE video to share, but, I did. However, if you dig her country stylings, check Erica’s YouTube channel out–and by all means, buy her album! In the meantime, here’s Drinking and Driving.