Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sara Syms: “Way Back Home” (2015) CD Review

Sara Syms is a talented singer and songwriter currently based in Nashville. Her debut album, 2013’s Fade To Blue, was nominated for the International Music And Entertainment Association’s Americana Album Of The Year. Her new CD, Way Back Home, the follow-up to that acclaimed debut, features some excellent original material and a good band backing her, including Nick Africano, Chris Cubeta, Jeff Berner, Spencer Cohen, Brett Bass and Thad DeBrock. Chris Cubeta and Nick Africano also produced this release.

The album opens with its title track, a good tune with a steady groove and a full-band sound. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Whisper tenderly to me and hold me/In your arms/Find my way, find my way back home.” And I like these lines: “And the sea, it calls to me/Every drop on my skin screams your name.” These songs of longing for home seem to always work for me. “Way Back Home” is followed by a peppy and kind of catchy country number, “Running Away From Me,” about that desire to take a step back and try to get a hold of one’s life, something most of us can relate to. “Wish upon whatever star/As long as it will take me far from here.” And it ends with a good, energetic jam.

One of my favorites on this CD is “Almost Home.” This is a slower, more beautiful track, with a passionate vocal performance and a timeless, hopeful feel. “Sometimes I feel like I’m almost there/Like I’m almost home/When I feel I can’t make it one more mile/Will you take my hand and smile and say/We’re almost home.” Wonderful. “Almost Home” was written by Nick Africano. Nick Africano also wrote the following track, “Hard Work Pay,” and provides the male vocals on this duet. “I know you still love me, babe/I know it in my heart/I know that ain’t the reason we grew apart.” He also adds some nice touches on harmonica.

“Real Bad Low” is cool bluesy number, written by Sara Syms and Nick Africano. It opens with these lines: “I don’t know what’s right/I don’t know what’s fair/But standing still won’t get you anywhere.” This track has a great sound, and I dig the percussion by Spencer Cohen. This song too is about going home, with Sara singing “The road home is day by day/The road home is mile by mile, day by day/How did I, how did I get so far away?

Then on “Crossroads,” Sara delivers a moving, emotional, delicate vocal performance. This is a tune written by Robert Johnson, originally titled “Cross Road Blues,” and this version has some additional lyrics by Sara Syms. First, of course, she changes “Asked the lord above, have mercy, now save poor Bob if you please” to “I asked the lord above for some mercy please.” I love the way she delivers that line, with a slight pause before “please,” and then “please” is almost whispered, and the vulnerability and need in her voice are nearly palpable. And then she adds these lines: “I’m trying to run from this town/I’m afraid to leave/Afraid of what’s in front of me/And dark’s gonna fall, fall around/Rising sun sinking down/Maybe it’s just what I choose to see.” The lines about “sweet lovin’” and “Willie Brown” are cut.

“Take Me On” is another of my favorites from this album. It has a mellow, pretty feel, with gorgeous vocal work. “People these days got a lot to say/About the way I live my life/The stories I’ve told/The way I’m growing old/Says a lot about me/But time is on our side/Even if the sand is surely draining.”

CD Track List
  1. Way Back Home
  2. Running Away From Me
  3. Almost Home
  4. Hard Work Pay
  5. Bright Dreams, Lonely Days
  6. Real Bad Low
  7. Crossroads
  8. Land Where The Blues Began
  9. Take Me On
  10. In Time
Way Back Home was released on October 9, 2015 on Rusted Ruby Records.

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