Sandy Carroll Takes a Musical Journey on New CD, Last Southern Belle.
Produced by Multi-Grammy-Winner Jim Gaines and Recorded in Tennessee & Muscle Shoals, Alabama, Songs Reflect Carroll’s Experiences as a Southern Woman
EL PASO, TX – Last Southern Belle, the latest album from celebrated singer/songwriting Sandy Carroll enjoyed some serious success for some time after its release. The title track held the #1 position for 6 weeks on the Roots Music charts for contemporary country songs and the CD hit #1 on the Indie Music charts. Produced by Sandy’s husband, multi-Grammy-winner Jim Gaines, Last Southern Belle was recorded primarily at Bessie Blue Studio in West Tennessee, with additional recording done at Nutthouse Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The CD includes backing from a host of all-star musicians, including legendary bassist David Hood, guitarist Will McFarlane and drummer Steve Potts. Several songs on the new CD were co-written with Mark Narmore who is in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and has penned several big hits (“That’s What I Love About Sunday,” “Moon Over Georgia,” “Like There Ain’t No Yesterday”).
Sandy Carroll supported the release of Last Southern Belle with a series of shows, including Sunday, February 21, at Huey's Midtown in Memphis (4-7PM) to kick-off the album’s release, with other dates expected to be announced in Nashville, Muscle Shoals and the Midwest.
“This is the music of a journey: from universal pain and loss (‘Headin’ Out on Empty,’ ‘The Nothing in Your Eyes’) to hope (‘Driving Toward the Sun’) and laughter (‘Tattoo That I Can’t Undo’), but mostly this music is about the South,” Carroll says about the new album’s songs.
“I was a ‘Southern Belle’ in training,” she recalls about her upbringing. “I didn’t know it at the time, of course. I could only see through the eyes of a child. I never graduated to full Southern Belle-hood, but those who did were the women of the ‘50s and early ‘60s - before eyes were opened … before civil rights … before equal rights for women. It was unhip to be a Southern Belle after that. There were more important things than matching pearls and beauty pageants. We were on the front lines.
“I saw this through the eyes of a young girl-woman - the shame of the South’s injustice toward an innocent race of people and a nation’s indifference toward gender equality. Both were simply born that way and it was unfair.”
Sandy Carroll grew up in West Tennessee, and once she left her childhood home to pursue the dream of being a musician and songwriter, her perceptions changed. “For the rest of my life I saw the world through the eyes of a musician,” she remembers. “I saw no color, no sex, no lifestyle - what mattered is if you were GOOD … that is, if you could PLAY. I have lived a lot of places, traveled and toured, learned and accepted the beautiful differences of human beings. I was always a proud Southerner. I would defend the good things of the South, the creative, warm, funny traditions (as told in the songs ‘Southland Rules,’ ‘Family Reunion Day’) that are soulful and enlightened. I had no defense for the bad things; there is none.”
After 30 years away from home, Sandy Carroll returned to her childhood rural area to live. “I was stunned to find some things were the same and I was delighted to find that some things were the same,” she says. “The voices of the gospel still ring loud and clear (‘Hallelujah Hill’) and the nearby Shiloh battlefield of the Civil War remains untouched and spiritually haunted (‘The Boys of Shiloh’). However, the dangers of the past lurk underneath the surface (‘Water Run Deep’). The rest of the world sometime sees the South lumped together like one of those confederate trenches in Shiloh: ignorant, Bible-thumping, racist, illiterate people. It is Unfair … Unfair.
“I have seen prejudice and dishonor all over this earth. It is not specific to a region south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but the stigma of our past and the myth of the South lives on … some truth but not all truth.
“The Last Southern Belle lived in a generation that was insular and circular. The new Southern Woman (‘Southern Woman’) stands firm in her own power and her own truth. When I was a little girl, I asked my mother ‘Am I pretty?’ She would say, ‘you are pretty enough.’ I hope my soul is pretty enough. I am working on it.”
About Sandy Carroll
Last Southern Belle is Sandy Carroll’s third album for Catfood Records. Her prior releases, Unnaturally Blonde (2013) and Just as I Am (2011) received international critical acclaim and substantial radio airplay on blues and Americana/country radio stations. In 2012, the single “Romeo and Juliet,” off the Just as I Am CD, stayed on the New Country Indie Chart for three months and reached #5. Also, “Good to be Home” from Unnaturally Blonde made it to #3 on the Country Indie Chart and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks.
Sandy Carroll returned to her Memphis roots in 1983 and spent a year headlining at a local club on historic Beale Street, following several years of performing on the road. Writing and recording the singles, “If You Got It” and “Memphis in May” in 1984, Sandy partnered with Jim Dickinson, NARAS Memphis chapter’s seven-time producer of the year. “Memphis in May” became a regional hit and for several years, the unofficial theme song for the Memphis in May annual festivities. Sandy performed at the Memphis in May Festival with the Memphis Horns (and special guest Rufus Thomas) and also at the first Beale Street Music Festival. She sang the national anthem and “Memphis in May” in front of 30,000 people at the Memphis Showboats football game, as well.
A year later, Sandy left for San Francisco to write and record. After three years on the West Coast and a short stay in the Midwest, Sandy returned to Memphis. In 1989, the legendary Albert King recorded Sandy’s, “If You Got It” which appeared on his final studio album, Red House. She then starting writing songs for her own full-length debut album, Southern Woman, released in 1993. Following the release, Sandy was invited on a month long tour of the United Kingdom.
Back in the States, Sandy continued promoting Southern Woman by performing at various festivals in the South, including Arts in the Park, Eureka Springs Blues Festival and the Southern Heritage Festival. She maintained a heavy performing schedule at all of Beale Street’s most prestigious clubs, and one of Sandy’s more unique gigs was writing the Memphis Mad Dog football team theme song, “Mad Dog Boogie,” recorded by Southern-fried soul and blues musician Preston Shannon.
In 1997, the great Luther Allison recorded Sandy’s “Just as I Am” and “It’s a Blues Thing” on his final album, Reckless, which was nominated for a Grammy. That same year, Sandy recorded and released her Memphis Rain CD, which was honored by the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Music Commission. She went on to receive a nomination by NARAS’ Memphis chapter for Songwriter of the Year.
Beginning the new millennium with concerts, club and festival performances, Sandy appeared at Muscle Shoals Songwriters, Beale St. Caravan National Radio Show at B.B. Kings, W.C. Handy Festival and the (invitation only) International Songwriters Festival in Orange Beach, Alabama, where she opened for songwriting legends Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham. In 2001, Sandy was filmed by Memphis’ PBS station WKNO, along with great songwriters Keith Sykes, Teenie Hodges, Nancy Apple, Duane Jarvis and Delta Joe Sanders as part of the “In Their Own Voices” concert. Premiered in 2001, the concert has been syndicated on PBS affiliates nationwide.
Inside Sounds released a CD entitled Memphis Belles: Past, Present & Future in 2002 that featured Sandy along with Ruby Wilson, Cybill Shepherd, Carla Thomas and other Memphis female artists. In 2007, Sandy released an EP, Rhythm of the Rivers, with five previously-unpublished songs and a reprise of “Bound for Glory.” The localized release featured “The Pickwick Song” popularized in Sandy’s home community. Rhythm of the Rivers showed another side of Sandy’s music and writing, and the songs reflect her love for home – both her Memphis musical heritage and her childhood and present home by the Tennessee River at Pickwick. In 2008, Sandy was awarded her own brass note on Memphis’ historic Beale Street, and in 2010 the note was formally presented and enshrined in front of the Hard Rock Café.
Sandy Carroll also co-wrote cuts on Catfood Records labelmates Johnny Rawls’ Soul Survivor CD, Barbara Carr’s Keep the Fire Burning, James Armstrong’s Blues at the Border and Daunielle Hill’s self-titled album. Sandy was one of the first inductees into her hometown’s Music Hall of Fame along with famous Memphis DJ, Dewey Phillips in 2013. Sandy was also named a “Memphis Music Emissary” in 2015 in recognition of her contributions to Memphis music.
For more information, visit www.catfoodrecords.com and www.sandycarroll.com