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Sandy Carroll - Just As I Am

Catfood Records

10 songs; 39 minutes

Styles: Mellow Blues, Gospel, New Orleans, Soft Rock, Country

In this ultra-competitive world, it takes courage to be oneself and not wholly conform to anyone else's vision of what one should be. In the world of blues music, this can be especially true. Fans are almost never a tabula rasa, or “blank slate,” when they begin to listen to a CD; they already possess expectations and high hopes for what they'd like to hear. When they don't, it can be a letdown. Nevertheless, down-home artist Sandy Carroll dons a quirky gray beret and cowgirl boots, asking to be accepted “Just As I Am” on her third release. Relaxing and engaging, her singing might not roar like that of Etta James, but that's more than okay!

“‘Just As I Am’ is a project Jim [Gaines, her producer-husband] and I have been working on for a few years. It came together when Bob Trenchard and I got involved, and we decided to release it on Catfood Records,” Carroll explains.

The ten, all original songs on the album are an eclectic mix, covering a wide swath of her roots musical influences. They range from ballads, blues rock and gospel to New Orleans styles and country. Each one of the tunes on this CD is noteworthy. There's a total lack of boring lyrics [thoughtfully included in the liner notes], and plenty of good humor:

Track 2: “Help Mother Nature”--Contrary to what one might expect, this New Orleans styled, swinging selection isn't a song about “going green” or cleaning up oil spills. Rather, it's a wry polemic on aging and what one might have to do to defy it (especially if female). “Nip, tuck, fill it in, tighten up that pretty skin. Lipo, suck it up, get rid of all that funky stuff....” Sandy may not sound very happy to “Help Mother Nature,” but at least she's helping others laugh about it! Evan Leake’s guitar blends perfectly with the background vocalists.

Track 5: “Romeo and Juliet”--Move over, Shakespeare! In the modern version of his tragic tale, only one of the two teenage lovebirds feels that way: “He promised Juliet the moon and stars above, but he never meant for poor Juliet to fall in love.” Fondly reminiscent of 1950's songs, this bittersweet ballad with an added accordion, Tex-Mex groove will propel partners onto the dance floor, even though “young love is always hit or miss.”

Track 7: “Slow Kisses”-- the best Beal Street, Memphis blues song on the album, Sandy says this sultry number was “inspired by Bebobalulu, our dog, and her slow licks of love to all the musicians and artists that have graced this project.” She slyly encourages the gentlemen out there to “slow it down” when it comes to puckering up, and “treat your woman right”! Rick Steff displays absolutely awesome piano skills here, trilling his 88 keys in classic blues fashion.

Regardless of one's usual taste in blues music, and in the other genres mentioned here, simply take Sandy Carroll as she wants to be received—“Just As I Am” - and be musically rewarded!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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