Flesh and Blood
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
The Scottish thrush’s reinvention as a gutsy soul/blues belter continues on this rugged slice of rootsy Americana. Thom’s husky voice will beckon you in but once you’re there it’s her songs, tough yet malleable backing (by a gutsy band that includes three Black Crowes), and her multi-instrumental skills (she’s an impressive blues harp blower along with contributing keyboards and guitar) that will keep your attention. Crowe guitarist Rich Robinson produces, keeping the sound earthy and low key enough to let Thom’s voice take center stage. She sure can belt them out, but also has a sense of restraint when necessary. That’s most obvious on the duet with one of her role models, Buffy Saint-Marie, yielding a lovely and riveting acoustic version of Marie’s “The Big Ones Get Away,” one of this album’s many highlights. Thom gets Rufus-styled funky on her own “Stormy Weather,” heads towards the swamp in “Save Some Mercy for Me,” goes church for the closing ballad “Lay Your Burden Down” and is convincing as a blues rocker nailing a sizzling version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s classic “Help Me.” Diverse and consistently impressive, this is her fourth album but the first to display the full range of her talents.