Sandi Thom: FLESH AND BLOOD
Label: Guardian Angels Records
In 2006, Scottish singer-songwriter, Sandi Thom, rose rapidly to fame in the UK, Australia, Ireland and Germany, after achieving a No. 1 hit single with
"I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker(With Flowers In Her Hair)." This was off her debut album Smile…It Confuses People. Two follow-up albums including, The Pink and Lily (2008) and Merchants and Thieves (2010), also topped charts in several countries.
Born into a musically gifted family, Sandi started playing piano at age 4, singing at 6, and writing by 11. She is influenced by artists from many genres, and seamlessly integrates blues, rock, folk, pop, Americana and country into her compositions.
This is Sandi Thom’s fourth studio album, and her second release on her independent label, Guardian Angels Records. According to her official press biography, "The album was produced by the Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson, and recorded at 16 Tons Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. It features an all-star ensemble, including Black Crowes' drummer Steve Gormanand, and guitarist Audley Freed (who's also worked with Dixie Chicks, Train, Jakob Dylan, and others). It also features special guest appearances from singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and the legendary saxophonist and Rolling Stones collaborator Bobby Keys."
I admit not being absolutely familiar with Sandi Thom’s music prior to reviewing, Flesh and Blood. Be that as it may, I’m delighted to report, "I am now a huge fan!"
Thom has a compelling vocal range, resonant of other female icons like Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Grace Potter and Shawn Colvin. Her song-writing is rich in detail and brutally honest. The storytelling is emotional and moving, propelling these songs to cross over multiple charts, be it, blues, pop or country.
Track By Track:
"Help Me," a catchy, upbeat blues number instantly grabbed my attention. The harmonies are robust and impressive. It is the first track to showcase Thom's harp playing, as well.
Next, a softer, more dramatic, "I Owe You Zero" is well done, with Audley Freed's guitar solo adding the right texture to fill out the track.
Thom has remarked how this collection of stories is her "coming of age" album. And in just three songs, it is evident on "Flesh and Blood", how she has the capability to transform a socially conscious subject matter like "racism" and "war" into a beautiful piece of musical art. The underlying message for tolerance and unity really connected with me.
"The Sun Comes Crashing Down" is the first single and available for free download. (HINT! HINT! HINT!) From the onset, I heard folk/pop singer-songwriter, Shawn Colvin's 1996 hit "Sunny Came Home," in the melody, with its easy-listening,contemporary-pop groove. By the middle of the song I was singing along as if I had heard it a dozen times before. In my opinion, this is a hit (!!!)
Track five, "In The Pines", is a slow-to-mid tempo ballad that fits well within the overall collection. I think it's one of those sleepers that will probably grow on me and I will end up loving it.
"Big One Gets Away" has a country(ish), ballad/anthem overtone, with impeccably sung harmonies comparable to those of the Dixie Chicks or Wilson Phillips.
"Stormy Weather" is another strong recording that stood out, as the cousin to "Help Me", with its blues-soul-pop tempo and catchy lyrics.This is another HIT!!!
In "Love You Like A Lunatic," Thom openly describes her three year love affair with blues-rock superstar, Joe Bonamassa. And anyone who has ever loved someone so deeply (to the point that it hurts) will be drawn to this powerfully, romantic ballad.
Thom delivers yet another commanding vocal performance on "Save Some Mercy for Me." (Again, I can’t help but feel Colvin's contemporary/folk/pop vibe and Potter's powerhouse vocal on this track, which is a good thing!)
"Lay Down Your Burden" begins as an instrumental, with a hauntingly, prayer-ish-type flavor. Then Thom digs deep and pours out her heart and soul on this closing ballad.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album, from beginning to end, even after four consecutive listens! There is sustenance and maturity in Thom's vocal prowess, a distinct evolution from the days of "Punk Rocker." The young girl with "flowers in her hair" has come of age and is now a woman.