Time was when one talked of “classic” or “veteran” artists the reference was to pre sixties icons, blues or folk or country singers that stamped their legacy on those who followed. Well time marches on and these days singers and songwriters such as Loudon Wainwright or John Prine debut’s are as far removed from us as Leadbelly or The Carter Family were to them. A long winded way perhaps to introduce Sally Spring who made a minor splash in the seventies but who has landed this superior slice of rootsy Americana that is as contemporaneous an album that I have heard all year.
The eleven songs here all dwell in the Americana idiom, covers of Johnny Cash’s I still Miss Someone and Los Lobos’ Short Side of Nothing illustrate the breadth that this entails, yearning classic singing on the Cash piece and an urgent rock pace on the Lobos track. Spring’s band are able to rock and coddle with equal aplomb and she is joined by guests such as Gurf Morlix, Caitlin Cary and Peter Holsapple on several songs. Overall the playing is excellent, sympathetic with a particular nod going to James Mastro on guitar and Ted Lyons on resonator, guitar and percussion.
Throughout the album Spring sings with an easy, assured and warm voice. She invites listeners to almost wallow in the sound of her singing. Of the eleven songs, at least half of them beg to be played over and over and again. Lake Ponchatrain has a chorus reminiscent of Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game with an accordian supporting a nostalgic tale. Mentone, Alabama is a road song with a bluesy clipped guitar that avoids the driving down the highway cliche but instead takes the listener down wisteria lined avenues and byways. Beautiful Ride has a wonderful wearied feel of regret and longing while Mattie showcases the band with a tremendous coiled slouch of snakelike guitar and rattling percussion, a voodoo version of southern swamp blues. The album’s closer, Boys In The Cornfield digs deep into the roots of folk as Spring commands attention on a song that can bring shivers to the spine. The one quibble here is the inclusion of a live song, It Don’t Make Sense, a Willie Dixon song that interrupts the overall vibe.
The album isn’t officially released for a few months yet but is available here