First off, ignore the booklet design which really doesn’t do justice to nor accurately represent the record within.
Originally from Phoenix, now resident in California, Sandy Ross is a veteran singer-songwriter with a forty year career behind her. In the 1970s she was a staff songwriter for Warner/Chappell music and provided songs for Kim Carnes and Anne Murray. Until she emailed us at folking.com, I hadn’t heard of her. I submit that says more about the state of the music “industry” than it does about my taste or lack thereof. At least I hope so.
The record opens on the lone prairie with ‘Distant Campfire’; acoustic guitar and moaning harmonica from Tom Ball. It’s a love song cast in terms of physical separation that doesn’t lead to emotional separation – a nice motif. ‘Child Of The Sixties’ puts Sandy firmly on my timeline and forcibly makes the point that so few issues have been resolved. What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding? Nothing. ‘Alice’ is a melancholy reflection on mental illness and then comes the first of the fun tracks, ‘Grandma’s Got A Boombox’ – “she may not rock but she sure can swing” – Sandy proves the point on a piano driven boogie blues (Paul Asaro on the keys) with more harmonica.
The centrepiece of the record is the long ‘Lobo Rey De La Currumpaw’ based on a story by Ernest Thompson Seton, writer, naturalist and scouting pioneer. It tells of the hunt for a wolf-pack in New Mexico, and in particular its leader, which was killing cattle and sheep. As the song points out the wolves’ natural prey, buffalo, elk and deer had been wiped out – it’s a natural subject for Sandy. The story was based on Seton’s own experiences, no doubt somewhat embellished.
‘The Secret’ drops into blues mode again but the album doesn’t coast to the end. ‘Giddyup Joker’ is another reflection on life and ‘Erev Shel Shoshanim’ is a well-known Hebrew love song. The record ends with another bluesy romp, ‘Honey. How Did I Here?’.
At the heart of Sandy’s band are Tim Emmons on double-bass and Jeff Gold on second guitar and mostly that’s enough. Ball’s harmonica is a significant sound but the other guests, like Michael Gough’s flute and Alexa Ramirez’ cello on ‘Mountains Of Memories’, are used sparingly.
Sandy’s three CDs are available in the UK in both physical form and as downloads and I can only recommend that you seek them out.
Artist’s website: http://www.sandyross.com/
‘Distant Campfire’ live, sadly without harmonica: