Sandy Ross -, May 6, 2000

Les Reynolds

Sandy Ross is a great one for crossing borders, but in a way, she stays safely inside what she knows and is so good at -- a clever mix of acoustic jazz, country and blues, some very contemporary and some as retro as it gets. While there is some exploring going on, she never really strays too far... Ross, a Californian, is a veteran and road-tested performer from the late 60s who has thrived in the coffeehouse scene (and larger venues) and criss-crossed the country in the process. During those years, she's honed her style and learned the craft like a pro.

Her latest CD is a wonderful showcase of those talents... Ross begins with the title track, mostly a monologue about what that eventually has come to mean for her life, spoken in that sweet, earthy and Southern-sounding voice of hers. She works it into a nice acoustic blues tune and it goes retro with the jazzy horn section blowin' in late in the song to give it a bit of a swing flavor.

Then, a jolt. The very next tune is a haunting social commentary called "How Was it Justified?" - - dealing mostly with the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in '95. Her guitar is percussive and her vocals a bit stronger and rougher -- a little like Rory Block. Instrumentation, always important in this CD, is really effective here. Jerry Peterson and Tim Emmons (bass player) arranged the horns and strings respectively for a dramatic, emotionally stirring sound to complement Sandy's passion.

On the next tune, a brand new comparision can be drawn -- the poignant yet assertive "Something That I Didn't Know" is a country-folk-blues number that makes you think of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell (Texas). Switching gears, "Don't Call Me Late For Dinner" is a cute, snappy, acoustic, old-time honky- tonk piano-driven ditty with some cool, 50s-sounding male backup vocals from Charlie Davis (bass), John Hostetter, Jon Rubin and Harvey Shield as the Mighty Echoes and Sandy leads them beautifully.

One of the best tunes on the CD is a ways down in the 10-song order. Titled " Five Coins In," it's a great, bouncy acoustic showcase of Sandy's true bluesy finger-style guitar picking and a great grumbling upright bass by Emmons. Sandy's soulful, sincere voice seems to let loose a tad and have a little fun on this song.

Sandy Ross can color in or outside the lines, whatever she chooses. It's a pretty picture either way.