Much has been made of Imelda May’s new direction following her marital split and her hook up (professionally) with T Bone Burnett for this album which promised to move on from her rockabilly with a bodhran premise. On stage she has ditched the fifties themed polka dots and teased hair coming on instead like Chrissie Hynde’s sister with rock chick chic but Live. Love. Flesh. Blood , despite trailing credentials to die for, remains resolutely in the middle of the road. As with her previous manifestation which was a somewhat diluted version of Cramps lite rockabilly, here she attempts to croon like Patsy Cline or dive into the badlands of Mexicana but there’s little sense of daring and despite Burnett’s awesome heritage he fails to inject any real passion into the album.
Several of the songs just fail to achieve lift off. They may seem impressive but like Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose ambition defeats design and delivery. The vampish Bad Habit harks back to songs like Love Potion No 9 but it fails to swing and the thrash of Leave Me Lonely abandons all subtlety sounding somewhat like Cher. Similarly, Should’ve Been You has a drum sound that sticks out like a sore thumb while Imelda’s voice seems to stretch for the high notes without having undergone a warm up beforehand. Much more successful are the quieter moments, the opening Call Me a delicate late night murmur with some sweet guitar that recalls Van Morrison’s Crazy Love while Black Tears is a Patsy Cline like bar room swoon with guest guitarist Jeff Beck adding some swell retro guitar slide. Sixth Sense is a nod to May’s previous good girl gone bad rockabilly mode and it slinks along with a fine atmospheric patina while How Bad Can A good Girl Be is soaked in Mexicana romance. Levitate roams around in similar territory and here the band and May do conjure up a romantic moment with guitar and strings sensual and seductive. May closes the album with an acoustic based number that may be somewhat autobiographical on The Girl I Used To Be. With a very slight Celtic folk lilt to it, it kind of highlights May’s dilemma, straining for the mainstream while trying to retain some roots. Ultimately, the record is destined for fairweather listeners and as such will probably sell a bundle.