Man, was it ever a good thing I'd watched the old Joe Cocker / Leon Russell Mad Dogs & Englishmen concert DVD just before throwing on Sandy Carroll's Just as I Am 'cause she slides right into that way cool old 70s gospel / blues / rock vibe like not a day has passed between then and now. This disc is funky as all get out, taking us back to the days when the San Francisco sound was unleashing Stoneground, Joy of Cooking, the Sons of Champlin, and a raft of others while Don Nix was touring the Alabama Troupers. And with this disc's omnipresent female backing chorus…whoa nelly, wotta double shot of down-home on all counts!
The really striking element is that Carroll wrote or co-wrote everything here, and the songs have been aged in oak barrels though they do occasionally address le vie moderne, such as the paean to plastic surgery, botox, and the "nip, tuck, fill it in" culture (Help Mother Nature). Odd as hell but tuneful and amusing. Evan Leake tips in a great set of guitar leads all over the place—a really righteous middle eight in Waiting for the Storm—and the rhythm unit keeps things cooking on a slo-boil, shuffle, or boogie. That 60s/70s flavor saturates everything, though, and visions of long-haired wastrels and hedonists start seeping through the soundfield, Haight-Ashbury redux.
Sandy Carroll exudes a been-there, done-that, 'n still-doing-it nature branding her as a comfortable pro undaunted by the damnably shifting music scene, someone who knows precisely what she's doing and isn't going anywhere but where she's already been, 'cause, brother, it's the right place to be. The band sounds like its been down in the mangroves with her and can't help but grin from ear to ear while getting down, Leake leading them through bluesy paces and mournful wails. Husband Jim Gaines (Santana, SRV, Luther Allison, etc.) did a great job producing, engineering, and mixing a lush environment projecting heat, plantation breezes, and Lawsiana elder days as Carroll sways and waltzes through it all. This may be a label debut, but Just as I Am comes off as though a 10-year groove has already been established, all and sundry hip to the groove, masters of the situation, and pleased as alley cats to be prowlin' and yowlin'.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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