I have been a fan of Imelda May for some time. Her songs Johnny’s Got a Boom Boom and Go Tell the Devil with Sharon Shannon have been on Family Favourite playlists. After Tribal though I wondered how long could the quiff and rockabilly revival template go on.
Well, look - no quiff! And like Samson, change the hair, transform the person. Where Samson lost his strength Imelda May has gained strength within and without.
Life Love Flesh Blood is like a grown up Imelda May, dealing with the aching of a heart, a delving deep to find identity. T-Bone Burnett has shifted the soundscapes and Imelda’s voice has gone from the almost novelty act of the rockabilly to a mature smoky jazz, soul deep Gospel and Chrissie Hynde-like rock voice.
The single Should Have Been Me is so catchy in its vulnerability and rage, it must be up there with the best songs of 2017. I am not convinced about its video which takes a political slant on what is a song about break up and divorce. This is Imelda’s Blood On The Tracks for sure.
Elsewhere the smoky vocal of Sixth Sense with Marc Ribot’s guitar giving it a slowed down country edged groove is beautiful and could sit on an Over The Rhine record.
For me When It’s My Time is obviously going to please. The Gospel sounding underlay of Jools Holland’s piano and then the Biblical lyrics:
“Wash me in water, that flows from your side
And bathe me in blood, that you gave when you died
Carry me over, to the other side
When it's my time, Lord
When it's my time”
On the last song on the deluxe edition May takes us to an altar call:
“He said good people do bad things
Bad people do good
If the choice is between love and fear
I choose love, yeah
Ooh, I choose love”
Us Irish fight above our weight when it comes to singers like Imelda May and records like Life Love Flesh Blood. Imelda might have Mary Coughlan in her head as she takes this new direction. It’s certainly got Coughlan’s Irish realism, strength of womanhood and power of vocal emotion. It is exciting to see where it might go from here.