Slings & Arrows
I was unfamiliar with Georgia artist Michelle Malone when her
latest album, Slings & Arrows (SBS
Records), showed up in my mailbox. My reaction
to what I found when googling her name was, ho
hum, another rocker who throws in a few blues
riffs and calls themselves a blues artist.
man, was I ever wrong! Ms. Malone's music is
much more soulful and rootsy than I anticipated,
and Slings & Arrows is already one of my
favorite CDs of 2018.
The liner notes to Slings &
Arrows proudly states that the album was
"created in Georgia by Georgia musicians." The
backing musicians --- Doug Kees (guitar), Robby
Handley (bass) andChristopher Burroughs (drums)
--- are all solid. But make no mistake, Malone
is the star of this show as she consistently
demonstrates her soulful voice and
multi-instrumental versatility. Throughout the
album she switches back and forth between slide
guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and electric and
acoustic guitar. To put a bow on this surprise
package, Malone wrote or co-wrote nine of the
album's ten cuts.
Malone shows off her ability on
slide guitar on the opening cut, "Just Getting
Started," starting with strong John Lee
Hooker-style guitar licks before rocking out with some killer slide. "Love Yourself"
brings Malone's vocals front and center on a
tune may be an auto-biographical
number, later coming in with a nice slide guitar
solo. This one has a bit of a Louisiana feel to
it, and I could easily hear Marcia Ball doing
"Sugar On My Tongue" also
features Malone's vocals more than the
instrumental part of her repertoire, as her
soulful voice soars through the octaves in this
mid-tempo number. Malone really gets to show off
on the up-tempo deep blues "Beast's Boogie,"
alternating between mandolin, harmonica and
slide guitar throughout the tune. She then
shares vocals with guest Shawn Mullins on the
Otis Redding song, "I've Been Loving You Too
Long," with subtle guitar and drum accompaniment
complementing but not overwhelming the
wonderful harmonizing of the two singers.
Malone revs up the slide on a
hard-edged blues, "Fox and The Hound," shouting
out the vocals on this song that she co-wrote with
Randall Bramblett. Opening the rootsy "Civil
War" with nice mandolin picking, Malone later
adds a nice harmonica break, all coming over top
of a heavier guitar foundation.
"Matador" is a
catchy tune but Malone's vocals get lost in the
mix --- we'd have another winner here if the
vocal tracks had been brought forward a bit
more. I can tell she's singing her heart out, but
the guitar tracks take away some of the vocal
thunder. But we make up for it with the folksy "The
Flame," a subdued, pleasant tune that really
showcases Malone's excellent voice. This song really
stuck with me for the longest time.
Closing this very fine album is
"Boxing Gloves," a song of redemption of sorts with
strong vocals from Malone, as she continually
repeats the advice, "... I took off my boxing gloves
and I found that I was stronger ...," framed by
killer slide guitar. A great way to bring Slings
& Arrows to a close.
Yeah, I'm all in now, and want to
hear more from Michelle Malone.
--- Bill Mitchell