Known primarily for her Rockabilly music, Irish singer songwriter Imelda May took a bold stand last year and changed to a more bluesy, soul style for her fifth studio album, ‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’.
The move included a complete change of image as well – gone is the trademark blonde streaked quiff and petticoats – May has been quoted as saying she was “fed up with being a hairdo” – and in its place is a more sedate, laid back style, in keeping with this new album.
‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’, 11 songs produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett, features Jeff Beck (‘Black Tears’) and Jools Holland (‘When It’s My Time’), is slick album, which should please both fans and newcomers to her music. Imelda’s vocals are as strong and emotive as ever, with one of our favourites track being ‘Human’, which conveys a sixties sound and could as easily have been released back then, sung by Cilla Black, Petula Clark, or Sandie Shaw.
‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’ was recorded in Los Angeles, with Bono acting as her mentor throughout the entire process of the album. The record is raw and real, yet although it was made following the breakup of her marriage from husband Darrel Higham, it’s not a heartbreak album. Some of the songs, like ‘Bad Habit’, the 7th track on the album, are quite upbeat and almost jolly, harking back to her former style. Others, like lead single ‘Call Me’, touch on love and maybe a little bit of that heartbreak, but that might be as much to do with the fact it’s a soul number as much as anything else.
‘Black Tears’,Co-written in Nashville with producer and songwriter Angelo Petraglia, known for his work with Kings Of Leon, the track features the slide guitar of Jeff Beck, and channels the best of the fifties, and the raw emotion of the track – the title came to her after saying goodbye:
“I came up with the title first; It was after having a difficult goodbye and I came home and just caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and noticed my face was streaked with my mascara running,” May recalls. “I have a book I use for each album where I write ideas, and I just wrote ‘Black Tears.’ And when I showed it to Angelo he thought that was an interesting idea and we ran with it.”
‘When It’s My Time’ features the sublime piano of Jools Holland, and is pure gospel: sad, raw, and heartbreaking. Imelda’s vocal strength is showcased brilliantly here as she is allowed to let rip on the high notes. This is classic Imelda May: we went back and listened to this track over again as soon as it was over.
‘Leave Me Lonely’, the penultimate song on the album, is perhaps the most exciting, as it’s a true departure from her usual style. It’s upbeat, rocky and reflects how strong a woman she is – we hope to see more tracks like this on her sixth album.
Final song, ‘The Girl I Used To Be’ is an homage to Imelda’s home town of Dublin, and how things have changed since she grew up there. Simple instrumentation is a nice touch – it’s just Imelda’s voice and a guitar – and adds to the overall Irish feel of the song.
So far as a rebranding ‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’ does the job well. It eases the listener in; long term fans wary about the new Imelda May aren’t confronted all at once with a different sound, and those new to her have a more than adequate sampling of her talent. Imelda doesn’t hold back at all. It’s a refreshing and moving album, and has all the makings of a classic.
‘Life. Love. Flesh. Blood’ is set for release on April 7, and is available to preorder from Imelda May’s website, as well as iTunes. Find Imelda May online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify.