Andra Faye & Scott Ballantine – Coulda Woulda Shoulda | Album Review

andrafayecdAndra Faye & Scott Ballantine – Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Vizztone – 2015

13 tracks; 47 minutes

Andra Faye was a member of Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women from 1992 until the group’s retirement in 2009 and Scott Ballantine is an experienced guitar player who plays in a wide variety of styles.  This is their second collaboration, recorded in Indianapolis in 2014:  Andra plays mandolin, fiddle, bass, Scott acoustic and steel guitar and both contribute vocals.  The material consists of five songs jointly written, two by Andra, one by Scott and five covers.

Andra’s “Walkin’ Home To You” opens the album with a pleasant song that celebrates the simple pleasures of a successful relationship, Andra’s fiddle adding to the country feel of the tune.  Scott’s “Crackheaded Man” is also sung by Andra and features her mandolin, the lyrics exploring the perils of dope addiction, sung to a classic country blues rhythm.  The joint composition “It’s A New Day” goes against the pessimism of the previous song as Andra beseechs us to ‘seize the day’ and take that opportunity to “lay down your bottle, lay down your pipe, lay down your cell phone, let go of the hype”.  The interplay between Scott’s acoustic picking and Andra’s mandolin is a feature of the middle section.  The first cover comes from Florida pianist Liz Pennock whose “Take It Slow” is a sultry ballad that Andra sings very well.  The jointly penned “Blues For A Crappy Day” flows well with Andra’s fiddle work and Scott’s acoustic work as Andra tries to find the positives in an otherwise poor day and is followed by the hilarious “Too Much Butt (For One Pair Of Jeans)” which comes from the pen of R. Bruce Richardson, Andra relishing the humorous lyrics as she bemoans that designer jeans are simply not made for a woman of more generous proportions!

Returning to the positive side of thinking Andra’s “One Dream At A Time” is a lovely, jaunty tune with some exquisite high note mandolin picking.  The title song “Coulda Woulda Shoulda” finds Andra admitting that although she recognizes that there  are times when she should have acted in a particular way, she chose not to, the best illustration being finding her guy with another woman in a bar and throwing a drink in his face, resulting in Andra being thrown out of the bar!  Andra and Scott get a lovely tone on their instruments on the gospel tones of the traditional “Standing In The Need Of Prayer”, Scott’s world-weary voice taking the lead and Andra singing the harmony vocal. Their own “Workin’ Mama Is Gone” finds Andra telling the guy who has access to several of those old blues devices such as a ‘mojo hand’ and a ‘black cat bone’ that he will still not get her back. John Hiatt’s classic “Feels Like Rain” is played slowly and reverentially and brings out all the emotions of the well-known lyrics.  Another cover, Mike Dowling’s “When You Gonna Stop Your Drinkin’?” takes us back to the humourous side of the couple’s style, a great song with the memorable refrain: “When you gonna stop your drinkin’? When a better way is found to get the whiskey down.”  Andra and Scott’s “Clyde” closes the album as Andra explains that she is leaving town with her first cousin Clyde who is happy to leave as he knows that Andra “just got paid and my car payment’s way overdue”: the song also follows on well from the previous song as some drinking seems to be involved!

Those who enjoy well played acoustic music with a mix of intelligent and amusing lyrics will find a lot to enjoy in this album.

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