Sonny Smith: Fruitvale

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Perhaps passively, but probably not even remotely inspired by Lou Reed’s New York, Sonny Smith shares his experiences living in an especially underprivileged neighborhood in Oakland on Fruitvale, and it’s safe to say the local chamber of commerce and tourism bureau will not be any busier because of it.

Like desperately pedestrian suburban enclaves everywhere ghettos too find themselves homogenized, in the sense that the harsh realities of being a pimp, cop, addict or pusher are much the same regardless of which low rent zip code you happen to find them.  Sonny Smith puts a face on these varied urban personalities—and even gives them names.  You’ll meet, among others, Walter, Mario, Celeste, a bad cop and another waitress in this folksy piece of street poetry that offers a fly on the wall perspective of our unnamed hero and narrators efforts in love and survival.  

The album should be appreciated in an end-to-end listen no doubt, but you’ll return to standouts like “Mario,” the guilty pleasure folk-pop anthem of a teenage queen with a catchy chorus that will test heterodude’s homophobic boundaries, and “Mr. Low,” a piano-driven narrative epic that’ll have you delivering hot chocolate to hookers this winter—unless you’re willing to cap their oppressive pimps instead

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