Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sarah McCully: Virtue

Straight up, this is a biased review. I know Sarah McCully and I appreciate her as a person as well as an artist. But at times, someone I know and like makes a record that rocks my world, and this is one of those times!

"Virtue" is that rare album that delivers the whole package, combining solid writing, brilliant musicianship, talent, and craft. This album sounds good. And you know I'm a sucker for the visuals: the artwork and photography are excellent.

I've been road testing this one since it landed in my hands a couple of months ago. My friend who likes Sheryl Crow and Led Zeppelin and Dixie Chicks likes it. My sister who listens to all the mono-monikered divas thinks it's good. My daughter who digs Gwen and the White Stripes and Audioslave likes it. My son who is into Audioslave and Soundgarden and Audioslave, even he likes it. My husband who listens to everything for a living likes it. My mom likes it!

This album has passed the dinner party test. Played on a low volume, it incited someone to ask who we were listening to.

I've taken it on several car rides. It works in town. It absolutely soars on a tar & chip road with hills dropping away from the ditches.

So what's it all about? I hate to label it. It's not country, but it's not pop. It's a damn fine singer backed up by a great band. Producer Justin Abedin does an amazing job of handling all guitars as well as banjo, resonator, & mandolin. How can you not love banjo? Banjo rocks!!!

Sarah has a laid back, sexy, drawling approach to the vocals, but there's nothing slovenly about it; every note lands precisely where she intended it to. As a singer she has a full tool box. Sometimes breathy, at times growling, and just the right amount of vibrato in only the right places. Her voice is beautiful, clear and passionate.

There's a good mix of uptempo songs (Mistake, Conquered, Hardest Thing) and ballads (Beautiful, Holding On, Take With You). At times this record goes downright haunting, such as in Never Wanted You More and especially Old Wounds, which goes rather Zeppelinesque in its climax. The title track, as well as the closer, Man of Me, are both jaunty and totally sassy.

This album, to me, is very womanly. It's got all of the love and hate and guts and questions and desires. It's a totally cool record but there's nothing cold about it; there's a lot of heat generated. If you are a woman you'll like it. If you like women you'll like it.
Whether you're into country, pop, folk or rock, there's something for you here. Go over to Sarah and take a look and a listen.


Big Orange said...

hmmm... can't afford no CD's, but may have to put meself on the waitin' list at the li'berry for this one...!!

Matt Mullenix said...

Shelly and I are suckers for the "attractive-female-country-slash-rock-slash-jazz-songwriter-diva." OK, so Shelly cares more about the music...

Sarah is on our list of future CDs. Thanks for the tip!

Here's one for you, a local friend of ours, Irene Sage (

Heidi the Hick said...

I hope Irene does well too. Lots of artists fall through the cracks when something happens at a label. There just aren't any guarantees in this bizness.

Sarah's doing this totally independently. Which is why it might take some time for it to reach Orange's library down in Florider...

Kari said...

Cool. Sounds like a great album!