“Leap of Faith”, the new album from Dakota Smart, shows an artist settling perfect into his artistic skin. It’s both warmer, more intimate, and yet more expansive than Dakota’s previous releases, but the most notable quality of the album is the confidence the singer-songwriter exudes. His voice remains emotion inducing, but it’s also stronger and more self-assured. There is also a renewed energy and passion on display throughout the album, where Dakota has written a heartfelt collection of 12 songs. The musicianship is tight. The instrumentals are well composed, contributing crucially to Dakota’s vocal performances. From the onset, they’re immersive, and if you listen on, you will tap your feet, and you will become easily involved in a blissful notion of losing yourself in the sound.
An ASCAP writer-publisher who has written over 100 songs, 21-year-old Dakota Smart is an award winning singer-songwriter, whose main instrument is piano, but he also plays guitar, ukulele and drums. He won Top Solo Artist at the Hard Rock Cafe Boston and was nominated for two New England Music Awards. Most recently Dakota was selected out of 1,100 bands worldwide to perform in a Nashville, TN showcase, in front of music industry reps from labels such as Warner, Capitol, Sony, and Curb Records. This opportunity was made possible as part of the vetting process for a Worldwide Tour, with The Extreme Tour. Performers will be considered for assistance from Grammy and Dove Award-Winning friends of the Tour.
‘Don’t Go Changing’ opens the record. Drums pound through alongside the ukulele strums, as Dakota Smart sings with authority, effortlessly sliding through his range. The backbeat is there, the lyrical touch is glowing, and the piano glows with a shimmer on ‘Keeps Me Going’, while ‘Lovely Lady’ is a louder, faster moving track. The drums don’t simply impose themselves, but rather add an infectious and irresistible groove. Dakota Smart’s vocals are pristine and powerful, while the horns are also deeply ingrained into the dynamics of this anthem.
Dakota Smart’s is a brilliant musician, and within his mind is a flourishing dome of ideas. That’s how he easily unfolds ear-warming and emotional tracks such ‘Believe’, ‘Make You Mine’, and ‘Draw Perfect’ that never stop resonating, regardless of what tempo or tone they’re designed within. The album reaches a poignant apex on the soulful title track, ‘Leap Of Faith’. The song is busy with varied instrumentation, yet is arranged in a way that allows the soundscape to breathe and focus on Dakota’s lyrical and vocal articulation.
The apex reached on the previous track is perfectly maintained on the stunning ‘Make It Easy For Me’, which highlights superb drumming, exceedingly brilliant vocal phrasing from Dakota Smart, and a gorgeous all-round sonic sheen, with impeccable guitar interludes in-between. Tracks like the piano-driven groove of ‘Girl Of My Dreams’ and the heartfelt, mid-tempo swing of ‘I Want To See It All’, showcase Dakota’s infallible knack for sticky melodies, and his raw talent as a songwriter.
Even when he winds down the luscious layers of organic instrumentation, as he does on the intro of ‘Open Road’, allowing his voice and the piano to lead the way, the results are never short of captivating. The success of that aesthetic is confirmed on the affecting closer ‘I Will Follow’. There is a certain timbre in Dakota Smart’s voice that openly invites full immersion. His silky, soulful and resonant tones, simply implore involvement and investigation, and the piano is an instrument that frames his vocals exquisitely.
“Leap of Faith” makes for a more than memorable album, and holds a collection of songs that are lightyears ahead of the most popular singer-songwriters playing on both the Canadian and American airwaves right now. A voice like Dakota Smart absolutely deserves the listening.