“When I’m writing, I mean what I’m saying – there’s a lot of me in each song” – Imelda May
Late last year you may remember an article I wrote about Imelda May’s new image and new sound. The Dubliner, usually known for her rockabilly sound and signature quiff played an intimate show at Ronnie Scott’s showcasing songs from her new album. Her hair hung down framing her face and as she began to sing it was clear that she’d taken control of her career and taken it in a different direction. Now the album is out and after taking the time to listen properly, you can hear the honesty in her lyrics and the vulnerability in her voice. This is the most personal collection of songs Imelda has released. She asserts herself not only as a fantastic singer but as an outstanding songwriter. Though not strictly Country, Life. Love. Flesh. Blood features some beautiful Country Soul Ballads reminiscent of songs like Patsy Cline’s version of Crazy or Eva Cassidy’s Songbird. Whatever your taste in music, it is worth a listen if you can appreciate a well written collection of songs.
The album opens with Call Me, the first single off the album. It features some lovely melodies in the chorus, nothing too complex but it works, it stays in your head. You get lost in May’s smooth vocals and it’s a good introduction as to what’s to come. Black Tears shows off her vocal range and technique, particularly in the chorus when she’s belting those top notes out and we hear that gritty edge to her voice. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, it’s no surprise that the arrangement and production is solid and this is showcased in Should’ve Been You which has a unique arrangement in the Intro. This is one of my favourite songs on the album, it has some great lyrics and it’s a good concept, the melodies in the chorus are lovely as well, the way she slurs and bends those notes as she sings “Who takes care of me?”
This album, written in the wake of May’s divorce, surprisingly does not lack good love songs; Sixth Sense and Human demonstrate this in different ways. Human is one of my favourites, the concept is great and there’s some lovely lyrics in this. It’s truthful in the way it says I want to be the best for you that I can be but I’m only Human, but I want to be your human. The arrangement builds tension going into the chorus and the vocals have room to soar as she sings “So come adore me, but know I’m gonna fall, Off of this pedestal that I hope you’ve put me on.” This is followed by the latin infused How Bad Can A Good Girl Be. Bad Habit has an unusual feel to it in the chorus, I think the melody doesn’t quite flow as you expect it to which creates a unique sound.
Levitate sits in Imelda’s lower register and features a lovely string arrangement. When It’s My Time follows this, it’s in 6/8 time and builds throughout, the vocals once again are sublime and I like the addition of the organ when that comes in. The penultimate track Leave Me Lonely is quite different to anything else on the album again though the melodies and lyrics leave room for May’s vocals to soar through that chorus. The album closes with perhaps the most personal song, The Girl I Used To Be. This has very detailed lyrics and channels Imelda’s Irish roots, it tells the story of her upbringing, again it’s another one of my favourites.
Imelda May is currently on tour in the UK. Visit her website to check out where and when she’s playing near you and grab your copy of Life. Love. Flesh. Blood.