It’s a truth universally acknowledged (pace Jane Austen) that to really sing the blues you have to feel the blues, have to live the blues. As amply demonstrated in Alone On The Road, one of a trilogy of reissues, Sheila K Cameron is most definitely the real thing. Somewhat enigmatic, she’s an artist, a lyricist, a singer – her creative force spilling out in all directions. There’s a relentless, restless outpouring of experience, that one art form simply can’t contain.
Hers is a voice that speaks of maturity and a life lived defiantly, if not always easily. It has a natural, unforced sound with occasional displays of unexpected depth that pack a powerful emotional punch.
Comparisons have been made with Leonard Cohen and there are certainly elements of his style of speak-singing in the flattened out melancholy and resonance of her voice. On ‘When I Say You Owe Me Nothing’ her urgently barked delivery has more than a dash of Nick Cave.
Lyrically, there are so many glimpses of a real original talent on this album. Some standard blues tropes get rehashed, for sure, but always with a unique verbal twist in her original material.
Francis Speirs’ (although credited as Spiers on the album cover) harmonica provides a blistering introduction to the album and then never lets up. In fact, the spot-on accompaniments by Speirs, Geoff Allan, Brian McNeill and Brian Young are what really lift this set of songs into another class altogether, providing a versatile mood-board from the slight country tinge of ‘Mr Moon: I’m Working Against Time’ to the Doors-y fuzz of title-track “Alone On The Road’.
Vocal effects have been used to create an old-school blues atmosphere, as on the loping roll of ‘I Looked Alright This Morning’ and the slightly tinny, compressed ‘Bluebird Outside My Window’ as heard through an old horn gramophone. (This song also contains the divinely blunt put-down “she’s a selfish, self-concerned tart”). In total contrast, ‘Baby How Long’ sounds like she’s right up in your ear, so intimate is the vocal.
Sheila K Cameron is a unique artist whose work deserves a wider audience. Her songs cry out to be heard and will no doubt be reinterpreted by singers of the future. This album is a little treasure trove for lovers of the quirky, the downbeat, the blues.
Artist website: http://www.sheilakcameron.com
Sadly Sheila K Cameron’s videos are not available to us in the UK – presumably for copyright reasons. Unless you know differently.
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