We read that Smith’s debut album, Sheridan, was last year’s second-best selling debut by a UK woman, beaten only by cool pop singer Dua Lipa (although Smith sold 100,000 copies and Lipa 1.2m, so it’s not a close-run thing). That collection of covers was a little patchy, but this new one is more of a body of work — the songs are all co-written by Smith.
The sound is not the Northern Soul of sweaty clubs and dancers on amphetamine; the tempo is slower, although Smith has a great soul voice and in some songs (Why Can’t I Fall In Love) the backing band does a decent English take on the Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band. Other songs are more pop, though it all sounds very 60s, evoking British soul singers of that era.
The title track opens, in which Smith (not Northern, but from Lincolnshire) sings about her love for a northern soul, a radio-friendly tune with added sitar. The intro of another radio-friendly tune, Handle With Care, echoes Son Of A Preacher Man. Elsewhere, she goes a bit Adele while Are You Just Sleeping is John Lewis ad material, remembering lost loved ones.
A slick but still soulful album, it may be a little middle of the road for some but for others a perfect pop/soul album.