Sally Spring: Made of Stars
Anybody who knows and loves Sally Spring’s music will welcome the opening bars of Beautiful Ride, the opening track on this new album, like an old friend. If you don’t know her music, I’ll tell you that from the first bar you’re dropped gently into the warm sound of her band – a balanced sound, built around Rich Feridun’s eloquent acoustic guitar – and then Sally’s voice comes in, a rich alto with a touch of vibrato seemimgly ever-present, that sounds like the voice of all the wise women who ever were, assured and authoritative.
Of eleven songs here, eight are new songs written, or co-written, by Sally herself and are proof of her very fine skills as a writer. She writes about stuff that matters to her so they’re always underpinned by emotional honesty, but she also knows how to put them together in a satisfying manner – not radical in any way, but not clichéd, either. Overall, there’s a tendency toward a Mary Chapin Carpenter style of sound on this album; Mercy, one of Sally’s own songs, and a cover of Los Lobos’ Short Side of Nothing are both pretty much dead ringers for MCC circa 1995. This is a fine enough thing but maybe detracts a little from the very individual and wonderful sound that is Sally Spring’s singing.
Summer’s End, in contrast, is a very fine showcase for what makes Sally distinctive. It’s a song about a rural community literally praying for rain to save the harvest at the end of a dusty summer; this is such a real problem for so many places and so fundamental to the welfare of us all and it gets the serious treatment it deserves. Sally’s voice is at its absolute best – unignorable.
Of the other new songs, I particularly like Boys In The Cornfield; set in the Civil War, it deals with the perennial problem of another generation of young men too easily tempted or dragooned into marching off to war. With Caitlin Cary providing a sombre fiddle accompaniment, it’s a song that could be as old as the hills, sadly. Beautiful Ride, on the other hand, deals nicely with the pleasures of mature love, of being still with the person who you’ve shared life with. A cover of Willie Dixon’s It Don’t Make Sense is another highlight; recorded live, Sally builds an acoustic funky rhythm with the excellent Ted Lyons on his resonator guitar and it just seems so right to hear a return to a 60’s sentiment – all the achievements of man “don’t make sense if we don’t make peace”. Well, we might have to be patient with that one, but we can all try.
I’ve got a couple of quibbles; one is that the cover of Johnny Cash’s I Still Miss Someone just doesn’t seem to work; in attempting to be very broken and blue, the music seems to stutter to a halt several times and I lose my involvement with the song altogether. That’s a matter of lost flow, and so, for my money, is the order of the tracks. I know it’s trivial and irrelevant because you can use the technology to play them in any order you like, but I still have an appreciation of putting the tracks together in a way that leads you through from beginning to end like a good book. Maybe it’s just me.
Otherwise, hoorah for more music from Sally Spring. She’s still using a quotation from Gene Parsons in her promotional stuff. He said: “Sally’s a treasure”, and so she is.
Heres what Maurice Hope has to say about Sally Spring http://flyinshoes.ning.com/profiles/blogs/sally-spring-made-of-stars
Here she is on No Depression http://nodepression.ning.com/profile/SallySpring