JD Smith – Soul Searchin’


Release Date: February 10th 2023

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

JD Smith– Soul Searchin’ (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Soul Searchin’
  2. Silent In This Corner
  3. Walking In Memphis
  4. How Would You Feel (Paean)
  5. Next To Me (Feat Cosima De Vito)
  6. See U In The Morning
  7. Eyes
  8. My Girl
  9. I Won’t Last A Day Without You
  10. Shame
  11. Stay The Night
  12. Right Here Waiting (feat. Mirusa)
  13. Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day (Special Edition Track)

Ever since Jon’s and my still-ongoing blog series, we’ve both been expanding our repertoire of the type of music we listen to and also objectively appreciate. Prior to 2019, we were only heavily invested in Christian music, but now we try to listen to most types of music and try to give every album a chance- even if it’s an album we wouldn’t normally listen to. Enter in powerful Broadway-style Aussie vocalist JD Smith, who has been a part of the Ten Tenors since 2015 and is now releasing a solo album of his own. Soul Searchin’ just released this past week; and though Jon and myself aren’t across the genre of soul infused with Broadway as much, I still found this release nonetheless poignant, inspiring, powerful, and thought-provoking. A debut album has to grab me- and although this album isn’t ‘wow’ enough (quite frankly, industry veterans like Mark Vincent, Josh Groban and Jackie Evancho deliver equally if not superior soul/Broadway albums!), JD’s efforts here are overall solid, and still worth the listen. It’s not the best debut album, but there are still shining lights here if you give these melodies a chance.

I’ve been working on this album for over a year! It’s been a labour of love. I’m super proud of it. It’s an adult contemporary album. Vocals are a huge deal for me, so I take a lot of time to make sure all the vocals are as great as they can be, including the harmonies etc. There are 7 originals & 5 covers. I think it’s a really great mix of tunes. There’s a track called Soul Searchin’ (also the album name), that I wrote with Rick Price, it sums up how I’ve been feeling perfectly.

We’re all searching for something in life, whether it be love, good health, a fulfilling career, happiness. Sometimes we find it, sometimes we don’t, but if we have people around us that can pick us up when we’re down, then it’s a great start.

Recording covers on your album is a tricky thing as you have to simultaneously honour the original artist yet also create your own twist on the song so that it feels like your own. JD has released 5 covers here- “Walking In Memphis” by Lonestar, “How Would You Feel (Paean)” by Ed Sheeran, “My Girl” by The Temptations, “I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by The Carpenters and “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx. He also unveiled a special bonus track of “Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day”, originally recorded by Celine Dion… and that’s nearly half the track list. Usually, I’m incredibly intrigued by albums that have a fair chunk of covers in them, because how else do you get to know new artists? By listening to them sing famous pop songs! In all seriousness though, these tracks are recorded to perfection, and are a beautiful mix of old and new favourites- the ‘best’ collection of cover recordings since the songs from Dami Im’s debut 2013 album back in the day. And as I’m sitting and listening to these timeless classics being reimagined and reinterpreted in a brand-new way, I can’t help but be inspired as I listen to one of today’s most talented singers (think an artist similar to Gary Levox or Avalon’s Jody McBrayer), and an artist that objectively is pretty technically sound vocally.

Even JD’s originals are impressive. They don’t hit me in the way that albums from Mark Vincent or Josh Groban do, but when comparing JD to an artist like Rascal Flatts (similar vocals), this project is very comparable. The title track is a jazzy and musically infectious pop tune sung in the eyes of a child as they innocently wonder why the world is in disarray right now on so many levels, and was JD’s way of trying to make sense of the pandemic in 2020; while “Silent In This Corner” is a quasi-worship/prayer type melody, with the lyrical content similar to the title track, but in this case JD singing to someone specific to help him during the troubled times- could be Jesus or a close friend or a family member. It’s a blanket prayer with a message as vague as Guy Sebastian’s “Get Along”, but the melody does receive points for possibly invoking discussions about prayer and things of the spiritual realm- so perhaps it’s done its job? Rocker “Next To Me”, is a happy, jovial and celebratory love song, sung with Cosima DeVito, with both vocalists outlining that their partner is the most important thing in their lives; while “See You In The Morning” speaks about the persona trying to resolve a fight with their partner, and declaring that they are sorry for their part in the incident, and that they desperately want to see the other person in the morning.

“Eyes”, a rock-solid and dependable promise to his wife that JD will be faithful and that his eyes will only be for her, is a powerful album highlight; while “Shame” highlights the stigma of anxiety and guilt and shame, as well as the subtle and also overt effects these negative emotions can have on positive relationships. The final original melody is “Stay The Night”, and is a plea from the persona to someone who he believes is his soulmate, asking them to stay the night and be with him. It’s left up to interpretation as to whether the persona is in a toxic relationship or not, but I guess you could read the song an infinite number of ways; and JD’s passion here mirrors the intent behind the song- the persona is so desperate that he falls back into bad habits, and he is either making a smart decision or a dumb one. And so, we can do things based on our feelings or based on the rational mind- and this song inspires us to actively do something with our lives and not just meander along.

I love this song [the title track]. I can’t wait for it to be released. I wrote it during that crazy Melbourne lockdown, when the world went a little mad for a moment! You could imagine the emotions running high, especially since we had just welcomed a new baby into the world. I was thinking about war, climate change, pandemic, border closures etc and trying to get my head around it all. Wondering how my children & many children around the world were coping with everything. Were they feeling safe, loved & protected…that’s all that mattered. So, I wrote it as a kind of ‘in the eyes of a child’ song.

JD Smith’s solo album Soul Searchin’ is a project that inspires and provides us comfort- an escape for 40-odd minutes if you will. Objectively JD is a powerful singer, but sadly his voice isn’t that distinct and there’s nothing in this album that stands out in that sense. Fortunately, though, these is extreme passion in this album and multiple listens may make this album grow on you. If Soul Searchin’ didn’t connect with you, that’s fine, because I’m sure it’ll connect more with others. But if it did, good on you. It’s a solid album that if perfect for this time of uncertainty around the world; and JD as an artist can only be better. Whether you like this album or not, it’s a win-win?

3 songs to listen to: How Would You Feel (Paean), Eyes, Right Here Waiting

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Mark Vincent, Josh Groban, Katherine Jenkins, Damien Leith, Jackie Evancho, Lucy Thomas, Anthony Callea, Avalon, Rascal Flatts

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