Known for her excited rockabilly style, Imelda May has long been a favourite for good time party music with a unique rock ‘n roll feel. She’s the type of musician you commonly see appearing on Jool’s Holland’s New Year’s Eve Hootenanny and various Saturday evening chat shows. As any artist will inevitably find, it can be hard to keep things fresh without diverging from that “x-factor” that makes them popular with their fanbase. In the case of Irish singer Imelda May, her fifth album is heavily influenced by her separation from husband and former band member Darrel Higham, who was also a significant creative partner in her music.
Life Love Flesh Blood is 11 tracks long (although a deluxe version is available with 3 extra tracks) and is quite a departure from May’s previous well known song stylings. It’s clear from opening track and first single “Call Me” that this isn’t going to be the raucous upbeat dance-a-thon that you might have been expecting. Instead, May channels emotions from her personal strife into ballads reminiscent of Eva Cassidy, Norah Jones and Dusty Springfield. The result is a soothingly melodic and ambient album that shows off May’s previously evident incredible vocal control but in a much more silky-smooth way, as opposed to the more full-on stylings from previous albums. In fact, you won’t find anything particularly similar to her well known hits until you reach seventh track “Bad Habit”, a sultry & strutting blues number that gets your foot tapping straight away. This isn’t to say that the record as a whole is boring or uninteresting, just more low key (as you might expect for someone who has separated from a long term partner). Highlights include the album’s second single “Black Tears”, a slow blues number that laments being hurt, “Sixth Sense” and the aforementioned “Bad Habit”.
Sure, it’s not the type of album that you’re going to put on when you’ve got people around for a party or on your playlist at the gym but that’s clearly not the point of the album. It might’ve been easier for May to create an album that was more about being strong and all “I’m-better-off-without-you” and keep things stylistically the same as her known hits. Instead though, we’re treated to a wonderfully honest and open showcase of her more tender and emotional side. Naturally, some are likely to find that it’s a little too morose for extended listening, but in the right moment in time, May’s fifth album manages to combine emotion and sensitivity whilst still showing off the talent of her voice. Here is a woman who we know can belt it out, but also has the control and range to bring a tear to your eye too.
Author: Steve, Bristol Store