BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
With her stunning new album, tellingly titled Slings and Arrows, veteran singer/songwriter Michelle Malone expands into new terrain with a personal statement that’s both revealing and reflective. She examines issues that have clearly become ingrained in her psyche and etched a deep impression. In the process, she finds an astute balance between desire and disappointment, all in equal measure.
As a result, Slings and Arrows comes across as more than mere meditation or typical rumination. It’s driven and defiant, and uncommonly bold in the way it exacts its raw energy and embraces it as part of her signature sound.
Although it’s not a concept album in the strictest sense, Slings and Arrows does look at a myriad of scenarios and set-ups from the perspective of the disparate characters that populate these songs. It’s through their hardships that Malone draws parallels with the situations that have led to her own conflicts with family and friends. Yet, given its relentless rhythms and her ability to bandy about the blues — opening track “Just Getting Started” sounds like ZZ Top redux, a tack that carries over to the emphatic “Beast’s Boogie” — its tangle and tenacity leave little room for softer sentiments. Still, the soulful strut of “Sugar on my Tongue” and the arched defiance of “Love Yourself” (I love my country but it makes me cry/When I think how great we’d be if we were unified”) leave no doubt as to where her feelings lie.
Ultimately, this is an album that defines Malone in ways that she’s rarely expressed before. Suffice it to say that in these tough times, these lessons about overcoming obstacles ought not to be ignored.
DOWNLOAD: “Just Getting Started,” “Sugar on my Tongue,” “Love Yourself”