The blues are found in many places and are played by a wide range of personalities. That brings us to McNairy County, Tennessee, whose major claim to history has been Sheriff Buford Pusser. Maybe that will change as the career of Sandy Carroll progresses.
Carroll has paid her dues for over a quarter of a century. Anyone who played at a Memphis Showboats (USFL) football game has definitely paid the cost to play the blues.
Her new studio album, Just As I Am, will be released October 13. She continues to write or co-write her material, and has surrounded herself with some of Memphis’ better musicians. Multi-instrumentalist Rick Steff (piano, accordion, and guitar), drummers Steve Potts and Derrick Young, guitarist Evan Leake, and bassists Dave Smith and Bob Trenchard provide the majority of the instrumental support for her vocals and piano playing.
She has produced an album of well-crafted electric blues. She possesses one of those voices that was meant to sing the blues. Sometimes the chords travel close to rock ‘n’ roll but the vocals, lyrical stories, and overall sound are straight blues. Her use of background singers to fill in her sound gives many of the tracks a dynamic appeal.
There are a number of quality tracks. “Blessed Be,” the album’s lead track, is an up-tempo and thankful song which introduces her use of backing vocalists. “Waiting For The Storm” is a slow blues tune that could have come right out of a smoky lounge around midnight. “Messin’With Me” is a guitar-heavy song, and Leake provides a solo that will bring you out of your seat. The title track is a gentle piano piece. I just wish she had been the piano player, and in fact I think she needs to provide her own piano backing more often.
The heart of the album can be found at its center with “Romeo and Juliet” and “Runnin’ Out Of Grace.” The first is a light and breezy ditty that runs counterpoint to much of the album’s material. The second is a song of introspection and running with the devil.
I don’t know if Sandy Carroll will ever have a mainstream breakthrough, but the music contained on Just As I Am deserves a listen. If you are in the mood for some top notch, under the radar blues, then this is an album for you.