Michelle Malone, still tough
Slings and Arrows' gets personal
“You can’t stop me now/I’m just getting started,” Michelle Malone sings with feisty swagger over a fast, bluesy shuffle opening her latest album, Slings and Arrows (SBS Records). But that’s only half true; Malone has been turning out rollicking roots music since her 1988 debut, New Experience. With Slings and Arrows Malone unleashes another set of rugged, soulful rockers and ballads slathered in the humid Southern atmosphere that she has perfected over the past three decades.
Malone’s pipes remain powerful on her fiery version of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” a duet with homeboy Shawn Mullins (filling in for Gregg Allman who was initially slated for his part). She gets rowdy with a New Orleans backbeat on “Love Yourself,” grabbing inspiration from Michelle Obama singing, “When they go low, we go high,” calling for sympathy in a divided country, all while laying out sizzling slide guitar.
Randall Bramblett co-penned the swampy “Fox and the Hound,” where Malone gets sultry as the song changes tempo into a John Lee Hooker-styled boogie, with another shot of scorching slide work. She displays a tender side on “The Flame,” arguably her finest love song, and closes with the mid-tempo but aggressive “Boxing Gloves,” where the titular items are removed to find she’s even stronger without them. It’s a significant and candid insight from Malone, one that finds the veteran singer and songwriter as incisive, potent, and commanding as at any time in her career. ★★★★☆