Michelle Malone – Fan Favorites, Vol 1 Unplugged
Recorded in Georgia, the Atlanta-born Michelle Malone (vocals/acoustic guitar) is joined by Doug Kees (acoustic guitar) on the 12-cut Fan Favorites, Vol 1 Unplugged (Drops May 12–SBS Records). The set was produced by Michelle & while she has been a mainstay of roots music (since her days with 1990’s Drag the River). Despite her lack of major label support through the years, Ms. Malone has maintained a solid career & CD releasing schedule. She’s a gutsy artist.
Starting off stylistically with “Feather In a Hurricane,” Michelle immediately establishes herself with sparkling acoustics & indomitable vocals that’ll put a smile on the face of Lucinda Williams fans. With maturity comes masterful intonation & phrasing. She’s mastered the roadhouse juke joint emancipation that one must be born with. The songs have musical muscle & Ms. Malone lets loose with a whip-snap vocal that flirts with innocent ears.
The proof is in the fact that this set is not a big production. It only features 2 musicians in the footlights. Yet, the sound is full, it embodies the soul of the messages woven into the lyrics. Michelle revisits more than a dozen of her finest moments.
I’ll take a risk & say that her authenticity has never been compromised because she isn’t in the elite club of California’s folk-rock established neighborhood. With that in mind, she still sculpts her worthiness with little expectation for following the recipe book, keeping the menu standard & following the paths already smoothed over by the lords of the manor.
She’s a distinguished artist. What I discovered was a more focused creativity peppered with raw gutsiness that’s still filled with emotion & not showboating. “Dimming Soul,” & “Avalon,” are not black powder it’s gun powder. The vocal inflections are all there to bring out the flavors – the spices – the juices of the bluesy momentum. It has a little Bonnie Raitt guitar spirit (“Tighten Up the Springs”), a little Candy Givens urgency, Karen Lawrence pipes & an ounce of Genya Ravan bravado.
Malone takes her well-toasted blues & swipes it liberally with soulful honey. Transforms it all into a slice of deliciously tasting tradition mixed with modern crisp dividends (“Weed & Wine” & “Blues Suede”). The set manages to balance the bluesier sides with poignant ballads (“Super Ball”) & the contemporary melodic voicings Michelle has been known to create throughout her 30-year career. (She doesn’t even look 30 yet).
Her voice is in top form. The spare instrumentation manages to construct a solid foundation that presents each in a highly polished manner. The older songs remain relevant & assured. This is for those who like to explore.
Highlights – “Feather In a Hurricane,” “Dimming Soul,” “Love Yourself,” “Super Ball,” “Weed & Wine,” “Blues Suede,” “Strength for Two,” & “Tighten Up the Springs.”
Color image courtesy of SBS Records. The 55-minute CD @ https://michellemalone.com/home