Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page



Catfood Records announces the signing of contemporary blues singer/songwriter Sandy Carroll, and will release her debut album for the label, Just As I Am on October 18 as part of the label’s new national distribution agreement with City Hall Records. The new CD was produced and mixed by Sandy Carroll’s Grammy-winning producer-husband, Jim Gaines, (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Luther Allison) and recorded at Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee.

In addition to Sandy Carroll’s deft work as a singer, songwriter and piano player, Just As I Am features some of the best musicians in Memphis, including drummer Steve Potts, bassist Dave Smith, keyboardist Rick Steff, guitarist Evan Leake and singers Reba Russell and Daunielle “Pie” Brown Hill, among others. Sandy Carroll had a hand in writing all of the album’s 10 tracks, including co-writing with Bob Trenchard, Rick Steff, William Lee Ellis, Jim Gaines and Evan Leake. The title track was co-written by Carroll, James Solberg and Luther Allison and originally recorded by the late, legendary blues guitarist on his Reckless album.

“Just As I Am is a project Jim and I have been working on for a few years. It came together when Bob Trenchard got involved and we decided to finish it and release it on Catfood Records,” says Carroll. The songs on the album are an eclectic mix covering a wide swath of her roots musical influences, ranging from ballads, blues/rock and gospel, to New Orleans styles and country.

Sandy Carroll reflects about several of the tracks on Just As I Am: “The CD’s opening track, ‘Blessed Be,’ is a song of gratitude,” she says. “Even with the blues, there is always something to be thankful for. The song is a compilation of the energy, feeling and spirit of being thankful. The background vocals by Reba Russell and ‘Pie’ Hill take us on up to heaven. On ‘Help Mother Nature,’ I wanted to get a New Orleans/Meters-type feel. The lyrics speak to those of us at a ‘certain age,’ aware of all the help out there, like Botox, lipo, nip and tucks -- now, do we do it or not? This is a humorous (and maybe a little cynical) way to look at aging. ‘Heartfixin’ Man’ is a collaboration with Evan Leake for the music and Jim Gaines for the lyrics to make a blues groove that rocks. Love can fix the heart, even in this restless world where there is no time for games or guessing. ‘Waiting for the Storm’ is a true 3 AM blues tune. You hear the warnings, see the signs, and you KNOW the storm is coming, but you don't know when. Walking on eggshells to prevent it, but you are at that stage in a relationship (or life) where you know it is right outside.

“On ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Bob Trenchard actually gave me the lyrics to this tune for a melody with another artist in mind. After we demo-ed it, he and Jim liked the way I sang it, so we decided to put it on this album. It’s a timeless story of young love that is supposed to last forever. The accordion added the retro feel of a Tex-Mex blues groove.”

Sandy calls “Messin’ with Me” a “goddess song with a funky groove; a full-blown woman who knows it. On ‘Baby Comin' Home,’ I wanted to accomplish a stride piano feel with a simple theme of a woman returning after sowing a few wild oats and finding out what she was looking for was already there. ‘Just As I Am’ was written as a love song to my husband and we wanted to capture the essence of the lyrics and the simplicity of the melody with just piano, guitar and accordion,” she recalls.

An interesting historical twist is that on the Just As I Am CD cover, Sandy Carroll is pictured against the graffiti wall that is now part of the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street in Memphis. During construction, this one wall was left unpainted from when the Beale Street Studios occupied the building. Jim Gaines recorded Luther Allison's version of “Just As I Am” there and Sandy was lucky enough to witness it. So ... the CD and art have come full circle.

Sandy Carroll is originally from a small town in McNairy County, Tennessee, but considers Memphis to be her musical home and has spent much of her career in the area, recording and singing in clubs around the mid-south. After playing on the road for five years, she headlined at the Lafayette's Corner club on famed Beale Street when the street re-opened in 1983.

“It was a great adventure to be on Beale in those days and I did a lot of writing as a solo artist sitting at a beautiful grand piano and watching history re-unfold,” recalls Carroll, who also worked with such Memphis legends as Jim Dickinson. “For several years after that, I wrote and recorded in San Francisco, but had the opportunity to come home to Memphis and work with the great Willie Mitchell. I moved back full time in 1992 and released the album, Southern Woman, returning to Beale Street and touring the UK as a solo artist.”

In 1997, she released her next album, Memphis Rain, and was nominated for a Premier Player Songwriting award by the Memphis NARAS chapter. During that time, she wrote for Albert King, Luther Allison, Reba Russell, Anna Popovic, Ellis Hooks, Barbara Blue and other artists. In 2006, she released Delta Techno, an album produced by Jim Gaines, which generated extensive radio airplay and also made the Roots Blues Charts. In 2008, she was awarded a note on Beale Street and in 2010 the note was “put to rest” in front of the Hard Rock Cafe. This year, Carroll filmed a show that is to be part of an upcoming documentary called “Ladies of Beale,” which celebrates all the women who have a note on the street.