Memphis based pianist, singer and songwriter Sandy Carroll has a new Catfood Records CD, Just As I Am, that is an intelligently produced album that blends soul, rock and blues for a nice musical stew that ranges from ballads, blues/rock and gospel, to New Orleans styles and country. She says, “Just As I Am is a project Jim and I have been working on for a few years. It came together when Bob Trenchard got involved and we decided to finish it and release it on Catfood Records.”
The Jim, Carroll refers to, is celebrated producer Jim Gaines, who is her husband. Gaines produced, engineered and mixed this disc. The studio band is pretty strong with guitarist Evan Leake and keyboardist Rick Steff being the only persons playing on all or almost all the selections. Sandy Carroll had a hand in all of the songs here which go to celebrating one’s fellow persons on the opening, uplifting, Blessed Be, asking for blessings for the children who hold the light, the warriors that let us sleep at night, the healers, the lame, and “blessed be the glory blessed by thy name,” to her amusing lyrics about trying to improve on her natural self in Helping Mother Nature, where she looks in the mirror and gets the botox blues as she sings “nip, tuck fill it in.”
She sings about love, yearning and whether the man she loves is her Heart Fixin’ Man, as well as the tragic young love in Romeo & Juliet, whose lyrics Bob Trenchard (who plays bass on the track) brought to her. There is more of spiritual message on Runnin’ Out of Grace, while she gives advise to men that if they want to treat their woman right, “they need to lean how to give Slow Kisses, set to a boogie piano based accompaniment. The album closes with the title track that she co-wrote with James Sjoberg and the late Luther Allison and which Allison recorded on his Reckless album for Alligator. It has been years since I last listened to Allison doing this, but I can’t imagine him crafting a blue ballad performance in his own style as she does with her vocal asking “Will you love me just as I am.”
The songs resonate with both the crisp production and lyrics matched by Carroll’s wonderful vocals that bring a strong country-soul flavor with nice elements such as Steff’s use of accordion on Romeo & Juliet to lend it a Tex-Mex flavor and Leake’s guitar (except on the title track) provides atmosphere without overshadowing her natural, understated singing. While some of the publicity for this characterizes this as a blues recording, there is little actual blues on this (one blues is the somber Waiting For the Storm with a strong guitar solo). Regardless of how one classifies this recording, it is a recording that should appeal to a wide range of listeners with Carroll’s natural, heartfelt singing and the strong backing provided her.
I received a review copy from a publicist for this release.