The Upshot: Theatrical ivory-pounder with a soul-gospel voice to woo the angels with—and the kind of record that makes the listener eager to see her in person.
BY FRED MILLS
Though Columbus, Ohio, artist Counterfeit Madison (born: Sharon Udoh) had released several singles and EPs prior to 2016, it was that year’s Counterfeit Madison Meets Nina Simone: A Celebration of Blackness that served salutary notice this was a major talent awaiting discovery by the public at large. (You can grab it as a free download at her Bandcamp page.) Now comes the soulful singer’s set of original material, Opposable Thumbs—a title which on the surface should refer to her prowess at the piano keyboard, but in its implied defiance, telegraphs much, much more—and right from the get-go, there’s a riot goin’ on. “Shout About Clout” commences with some titular shouting then gives way to synth-and-piano powered rock-gospel arrangement sonically urging the listener to rise up.
As the album unfolds you’re treated to bluesy, soul-infused balladry (“Light Switch,” “Song for the Loyals,” “Concept of Life #1 in B Major”) that showcases both her piano skills—there are some overt neoclassical flourishes she’s fond of—and her octave-spanning prowess as a vocalist, not to mention underscoring how much she can sound like Simone at times. This is in contrast to the jaunty, jazzy, theatrical rock ‘n’ roll (“I Hope It’s Alright,” “Bartlett’s”) that has no doubt earned her a reputation as a flamboyant, charismatic stage performer. One suspects that Opposable Thumbs is no preparation for experiencing Madison in person, but it’s as good a calling card as they come. I can’t wait for a chance to see her live.
Available, incidentally, in digital and heavyweight vinyl formats—clearly, you want the latter, right?
DOWNLOAD: “Song for the Loyals,” “I Hope It’s Alright”