Sandy Dillon – East Overshoe

Album Review by Mark Bayross

EAST OVERSHOE is American Sandy Dillon’s third official album, coming two years after the well-received ELECTRIC CHAIR. Her band has remained intact from the previous record, although tragically her husband and collaborator Steve Bywater died just after it was completed. Add this to the fact that Sandy Dillon’s father, who appears on the album’s cover, also died last year, and the record cannot fail to resonate with a deeply personal sadness.

But EAST OVERSHOE does not echo with impending death like Joy Division’s “Closer” or Nirvana’s “In Utero”. The band’s performance is upbeat and lively, playing a bewildering array of instruments, in addition to those invented by Bywater as he suffered from multiple sclerosis – dobro, blown bottleneck, flatback bouzouki, etc (special mention should go to former Pogue Dave Coulter whose inventory includes a musical saw, berimbau, jew’s harp, tubing, clackamore and nail fiddle…answers on a postcard please).

While the band does an admirable job of producing a shuffling skiffle groove (SECOND DAD, GOING AWAY) or spooky ballad (SEND ME A DOLLAR, I’M JUST BLUE) to the accompaniment of twanging guitar, clanking pipes or Sandy’s Hammond organ, the overall effect falls short of, for instance, Tom Waits’ “Bone Machine”.

This may be because Sandy’s voice is far from the whisky-addled baritone rasp of Tom Waits. It is an acquired taste for sure, but I’m afraid to say it irritates rather than adding atmosphere – she come across more like Macy Gray impersonating Cartman. This renders the slow songs like FILTH AND DUST a challenge to begin with, a rather painful listening experience.

Nevertheless, you have to appreciate the band’s quest for such a left-of-field sound – the record is crammed with found sounds and background detail (whistling, metal percussion, glass) and occasionally gets into its rhythmic stride (HOT POTATO, HAIR HAN DOWN), only to be outdone by Sandy Dillon’s crazy bag lady routine.

Shame.

2 stars

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