Sometimes, when you hear a song it just stops you in your tracks. You become caught up in the song’s beauty, swept away by its subtleties and charms. This happened to me last week, when I heard the most gorgeous track from Gina Carey, For Love. This is her new single, and is also a track from Gina’s new album Love Letters. Having been swept away by For Love, I decided to find out more about Gina Carey and her new album Love Letters.

Now for anyone who hasn’t yet heard Gina Carey’s music, Gina has had a long and successful recording career, releasing three gospel albums and a trio of soulful albums. Her career started in 1990, and saw Gina’s voice compared to legendary soul and disco singer Stephanie Mills. Straight away, I heard the similarity and was struck by how similar Gina’s voice sounded to Stephanie’s. However, their music is quite different, but has one similarity, both are hugely soulful. 

Although Gina Carey’s career started in 1990, it wasn’t until 1996 that Gina released her solo album In His Time, the first of three gospel albums Gina released. It was an album that sold over ten thousand copies throughout the United States and lead to Gina being nominated by the Black Music Academy Association of America for two awards, Best Female Gospel Performer and Gospel’s Rising Star. After the release of In His Time, two further gospel albums would follow in the next ten years. 2003 saw the release of Gina’s second gospel album Changes. Three years later in 2006, came the last in Gina’s trio of gospel albums Tell Um. 2006 also saw Gina receive a prestigious award for her music, when she won the Las Vegas Black Music Awards’ for Best Gospel Performer at the Cashman Theater. However, when Gina’s next album was released, the style of music would be different.

Much had happened to Gina between the released on Tell Um in 2006 and My Journey in 2008. In 2007, Gina auditioned for America’s Got Talent on NBC TV and had performed with Lee Bailey at the inaugural EURWEB Awards. Gina also auditioned for another television show “Showtime At The Apollo, filmed at the famous theatre in Harlem where so many great singers had appeared. So impressed with Gina were the judges, that she was twice asked to be a guest on the show. It definitely seemed that Gina Carey’s star was rising during 2007 and this continued into 2008 when BET J played the video for her True Love single on their Cup show. When Gina would release her next album it would demonstrate her talent as a singer, songwriter and arranger.

Melodic was Gina’s second soul album and fifth album overall. On Melodic, Gina wrote and arranged the songs, while her husband John, Urban Soul Guitarist and played on, and produced Melodic. This was Gina’s most successful album, reaching number one in the UK Soul Charts in August 2011. Then, in December 2011, Gina received a huge accolade, when Melodic was named one of the best soul albums of 2011. Gina was in illustrious company, joining names like Jill Scott, Maysa Leak and Eric Benet. This bodes well for the release of Gina’s new album Love Letters.

Love Letters is Gina’s third soul album and sixth album overall, released in February 2012 on Gico Music, Gina and John Carey’s own label. Written, arranged and produced by Gina, while John plays all guitar parts. On Love Letters are ten beautiful songs, which I’ll now tell you about. 

Love Letters opens with Boogie On Down, a track that combines elements of Nu Soul with funk music. Opening with a James Brown like growl, the track marries an arrangement that’s full of a funky rhythm section, punchy blazing horns and handclaps with Gina’s sweet sounding vocal. Her vocal is controlled and confident, with a beautiful, soulful quality. Meanwhile John’s guitar licks augment the good-time, joyous arrangement, full of rasping horns and funky rhythm section. This is an uplifting and joyful opening track, featuring an assured vocal from Gina and an irresistibly, funky arrangement.

Forever is a mid-tempo track with some beautiful, almost spiritual lyrics about everlasting love, that touches on faithfulness and the sanctity of marriage and marriage vows. These lyrics sound as if they’ve been influenced by Gina’s gospel background. She delivers them with a combination of sincerity and emotion, against a backdrop of crispy drumbeats, synths, subtle strings and John’s guitar. Gina’s vocal is multi-tracked, so she ends up singing backing vocals. This works really well, as does a brief searing, sizzling guitar solo from John just after two minutes, which demonstrates his talents as a guitarist. However, it’s Gina’s vocal and lyrics that steal the show. I love the lyrics to this song, as they’ve a lovely sentiment, about marriage and relationships.

Although Category 5 is just 115 beats per minute, it seems a quicker track. Here, Gina gets the opportunity to demonstrate not just the quality of her vocal, but its power and control. Her voice is louder, stronger and sassy, but she’s always in control, her voice perfectly clear as she sings about love. Behind her, backing vocals accompany her, while the arrangement features a lovely, shuffling combination of rhythm section, synths and percussion combine with bursts of guitar. Later a sample of a thunderstorm features, as Gina sings “about showering you with love.” This is a masterstroke, adding just the finishing touch to a fantastic track that marries a great arrangement with a confident, crystalline vocal from Gina that’s also impassioned and beautiful.

So Natural might be the title of this track, but could also describe Gina’s singing style. Not for Gina the histrionics you hear on some modern soul albums, just music sung with emotion and passion, delivered in a voice that’s very beautiful. This is the case here, with her vocal delivered with a combination of subtlety, emotion and passion. Like her vocal, the arrangement has a similar understated quality, just keyboards, crispy drumbeats, lush strings and some subtle guitar playing from John. Similar to other tracks, Gina’s vocals are multi-tracked so she also contributes backing vocals. Towards the end of the track, her voice soars high, but as always, Gina controls her voice perfectly. Of the ten tracks on Love Letters, So Natural is one of the most gorgeous tracks, a paean to love, sung with feeling, sincerity and emotion by Gina Carey.

When For Love opens, a brief burst of strings can be heard, before giving way to slow, crisp beats and keyboards. They provide the perfect backdrop for Gina’s louder, strong and hugely impassioned vocal. Backing vocalists accompany Gina, as she sings about what “she’d do for love.” The track has a real 21st century Nu Soul sound, with its drums, keyboards combining slowly with Gina’s sensuous, sultry vocal. Like other tracks on Love Letters, Gina Carey can write and delivers some beautiful love songs, which she brings to life with her impassioned and sensuous delivery. 

There’s a very different sound on the Funky Jazz Remix of Unbelievable. Rather than the combination of smooth soul and Nu Soul of the previous tracks, there’s a real Nu Jazz sound. Opening with John’s guitar playing, a myriad of percussion, blazing horns combine with crunchy drumbeats on this mid-tempo song. Again, there’s a shuffling sound to the arrangement, while Gina’s vocal is laden with emotion and controlled power, as her delivery is jazz  tinged. While horns drift above the arrangement, Gina’s scats in a jazzy style, with backing vocalists accompanying her. Although this track has a different sound and style, with the arrangement busier and jazz tinged, it has the same quality as previous tracks. Not only that, it demonstrates Gina’s versatility as a vocalist, with her seemingly as comfortable with jazz tinged tracks as her usual soulful style.

Beautiful Music seems an apt title for this track, with its slow tempo, beautiful, subtle arrangement and Gina reflective and thankful. Her delivery is heartfelt, the lyrics about love and her relationship with husband John. Lyrics like “I’m the strings on your guitar” and “we make beautiful music together” are just two of the many lovely lyrics in this song. The arrangement features flourishes of keyboards, a slow bass and crisp drums, while guitar, finger-clicks and backing vocalists add to what is one of Love Letters’ most romantic, heartfelt and beautiful tracks.

Flourishes of percussion open Love You Baby, before keyboards, electric piano and then Gina’s gentle, thoughtful vocal. Quickly, Gina’s vocal grows in strength and emotion, while the backing vocalists sing subtly. Later, when a piano solos and a flute enters, Gina half-speaks the vocal, delivering the lyrics about love with a heartfelt, sincerity. Then, when bursts of horn briefly enter, Gina’s vocal grows in strength, soaring high, a combination of passion and genuine emotion. Although this track has a quite different slightly, Latin sound because of the percussion, Gina’s vocal is just as good as on previous tracks.

I Run is a mid-tempo track with a real gospel influence. Gina’s first three albums were gospel albums and this is a lovely combination of gospel and soul music.  The track opens with keyboards, standup bass, guitars and percussion before a vocal from Gina that’s assured and sincere enters. During the track, Gina sings “I run to the Lord,” and “surrender to God” demonstrating her faith. With backing vocalists accompanying her, the song is delivered in a call and response style, with the backing vocalists answering Gina. Throughout mesmerizing arrangement’s sound. Again, though, it’s Gina’s beautiful vocal that takes centre-stage as she delivers her message with an assuredness and sincerity.

Closing Love Letters is another track with a lovely sentiment, Love, Peace and Joy. This is the quickest track on the album, with a really joyous, uplifting sound, as Gina wishes everyone “Love, Peace and Joy.” Meanwhile, the arrangement features searing guitars, soft drumbeats, flourishes of keyboards and strings. Gina delivers the lyrics beautifully, with backing vocalists and John augmenting her heartfelt vocal. Just before the end, fiddles briefly join the track, adding another influence to a beautiful, joyous, uplifting song with a lovely message. This seems the perfect end to Love Letters, with a song that incorporates soul and gospel music perfectly.

Having been drawn to Gina Carey’s sixth album by her latest single For Love. , I can honestly say that each of the other nine tracks are of a similar quality. The ten tracks on Love Letters are a combination beautiful love songs like Forever, So Natural, For Love and Beautiful Music delivered with a combination of sincerity, emotion and passion, in a style that combines smooth soul with Nu Soul. It’s a highly mature, elegant and polished album from Gina, one that also features the jazz tinged sound of Unbelievable and the funky opening track Boogie On Down. Apart from soul, jazz and funk, there’s the gospel sound of I Run and Love, Peace and Joy, two equally beautiful tracks sung with sincerity by Gina. Overall, Love Letters is an album the crosses the genres several times, during the ten tracks written, arranged and produced by Gina. Each of the ten tracks are beautifully arranged and feature some polished production from Gina. With husband John Carey, whose new album Smooth, Soulful and Funky, was recently released, playing guitar on Love Letters, the album was truly a family affair. Not only that, but Love Letters was released on Gina and John’s own label Gico Music. However, with talent like Gina Carey’s it shouldn’t be long before a bigger label tries to tempt her away. So, if you love soul music, soul music that’s smooth and has a Nu Soul sound, the Love Letters is an album that definitely belongs in your collection. Love Letters is a beautiful, elegant and quite brilliant album of music from Gina Carey that I can thoroughly recommend to anyone who loves good music. Standout Tracks: Forever, So Natural, For Love and Beautiful Music. 


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