Sandy Ross - Artist of the Month
Veteran artist, Sandy Ross, has been writing and performing since the late 1960's. She started out in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona and quickly moved to New York City then signed with Chappell Music who sent her on to Los Angeles. Sandy's latest album, Coloring Outside the Lines, is an intensely emotional blend of blues, folk and jazz. Her style is like a mixture of Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raite and Michele Shocked, circa Short, Sharp Shocked.
The title cut, in fact, brings back memories of Shocked's Graffiti Limbo from said album. Sandy tells a great spoken story at the beginning about learning how to color inside the lines of a coloring book as a child. Coloring Outside the Lines develops into a clever metaphor for life. One thing that really adds a lot to the feel of the entire album is the instruments. In addition to Sandy's six and twelve string guitars, there is also a horn section and a string section as well as piano.
Listening to this album, I can see why Chappell Music hired Sandy as a staff songwriter. She has a gift for well written lyrics as well as music. One of the most standout songs on this release, and also one of my favorites, is How Was it Justified. This song was written about the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing. As you might expect, it's extremely powerful and emotional. It begs the question, How Was it Justified, to the perpetrators of the horrible crime. It's both sad and very blunt, starting right off with an image of the famous baby rescue scene that we all watched with bated breath. Most remember watching the one year old being pulled from the debris, very burned, and we were all saddened when she died. This song relives much of the horror of the bombing with strong, angry lyrics. Sandy creates great parallels from the bombing to Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Here is just a taste of Sandy's intense lyrics: "In Oklahoma City where the Federal Building stood, here's a chain-link fence that documents the fall of brotherhood. All covered up with flowers, teddy bears, and poems an' wreaths. It's a sacrifice of innocence to all of our beliefs."
Sandy stays mostly with a folk/blues sound, but Something That I Didn't Know ventures into the country music field with great guitar riffs. Don't Call Me Late for Dinner crosses over into yet another genre, early rock n' roll. This sock-hop type tune is a tongue in cheek play on the old saying "call me anything you like, but don't call me late for dinner." It has a great do-whop chorus with male back-up vocals.
My pick for best song is Kansas Skies. Here, Sandy displays her rare gift for writing about nature. Her use of beautiful images of Kansas Skies place her in the ranks with John Denver and James Taylor. Sandy never oses her creative edge: "I've been twice around this country now and I still don't understand just why I seem to need applause to find out where I am."
Twice around the country is no exaggeration, Sandy has toured the U.S. several times, playing in over 40 states. Her songs have been performed by Anne Murray and Kim Carnes, among others, and her music s receiving airplay on over 150 radio stations in the U.S. and all over the world.
Another powerful song is Mary Ann, written about a young runaway. For you gamblers, there's Five Coins In, and for those who like the slower country ife there's Takin' It Slow. I was very impressed with Sandy's remake of the classic Billie Holiday song, God Bless the Child. I have never heard this song performed in this style, with a guitar. I've always believed if you're going to remake a song, you should make it your own, i.e. Phil Collins doing True Colors. That's exactly what Sandy did with God Bless the Child. Finally, the CD goes out with a bang with I Remembered a Song. It starts out with a slow guitar and Sandy's voice, then evolves into a duet with Severin Browne, with a huge finale at the end with a full choir. Sandy recently signed with Chartmaker Records and her CD will soon be available at Tower Records, Borders, Barnes and Noble and Best Buy.