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Holy Smoke Already a star in her native New Zealand, Gin Wigmore makes her global debut with the release of Holy Smoke, an album that shoots to bridge the gap between neo-soul and rock & roll. On paper, Wigmore certainly has the makings of a popular artist; she's blonde, brazen, and named after a liquor, even if her raspy alto sounds more whiskey-soaked than gin-splashed. She also surrounds herself with some of the industry's most competent characters, from former Ryan Adams cohorts the Cardinals (who perform every track here) to veteran producer Mike Elizondo. The combination should work -- and on rootsy barnburners like "One Last Look," it does -- but Holy Smoke isn't the tour de force that its cast list suggests. The problem isn't a lack of talent; it's an issue of incompatibility. Wigmore is a neo-soul vocalist in the tradition of Duffy and Amy Winehouse, and the Cardinals are a country-rock outfit, far more indebted to the Band than the Dap-Kings. Both sides end up playing tug of war, resulting in an album that plays to neither of their strengths. Holy Smoke could've benefitted from venturing into either extreme, but it forsakes the country and soul camps for a sense of neutral territory, resulting in an album that includes some sassy highlights -- Wigmore sings "Hey Ho" like she's been smoking menthols for a decade, chastising a former lover with barbed lines like "Don't you touch me there!" -- but doesn't reach the heights that are surely within her reach. ~ by Andrew Leahey, All Music Guide
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