Just As I Am



Catfood Records announces the signing of contemporary blues singer/songwriter Sandy Carroll, and will release her debut album for the label, Just As I Am on October 18 as part of the label’s new national distribution agreement with City Hall Records. The new CD was produced and mixed by Sandy Carroll’s Grammy-winning producer-husband, Jim Gaines, (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Luther Allison) and recorded at Bessie Blue Studio in Stantonville, Tennessee.

In addition to Sandy Carroll’s deft work as a singer, songwriter and piano player, Just As I Am features some of the best musicians in Memphis, including drummer Steve Potts, bassist Dave Smith, keyboardist Rick Steff, guitarist Evan Leake and singers Reba Russell and Daunielle “Pie” Brown Hill, among others. Sandy Carroll had a hand in writing all of the album’s 10 tracks, including co-writing with Bob Trenchard, Rick Steff, William Lee Ellis, Jim Gaines and Evan Leake. The title track was co-written by Carroll, James Solberg and Luther Allison and originally recorded by the late, legendary blues guitarist on his Reckless album.

“Just As I Am is a project Jim and I have been working on for a few years.  It came together when Bob Trenchard got involved and we decided to finish it and release it on Catfood Records,” says Carroll. The songs on the album are an eclectic mix covering a wide swath of her roots musical influences, ranging from ballads, blues/rock and gospel, to New Orleans styles and country.  

Sandy Carroll reflects about several of the tracks on Just As I Am: “The CD’s opening track, ‘Blessed Be,’ is a song of gratitude,” she says. “Even with the blues, there is always something to be thankful for. The song is a compilation of the energy, feeling and spirit of being thankful. The background vocals by Reba Russell and ‘Pie’ Hill take us on up to heaven. On ‘Help Mother Nature,’ I wanted to get a New Orleans/Meters-type feel. The lyrics speak to those of us at a ‘certain age,’ aware of all the help out there, like Botox, lipo, nip and tucks -- now, do we do it or not? This is a humorous (and maybe a little cynical) way to look at aging. ‘Heartfixin’ Man’ is a collaboration with Evan Leake for the music and Jim Gaines for the lyrics to make a blues groove that rocks. Love can fix the heart, even in this restless world where there is no time for games or guessing. ‘Waiting for the Storm’ is a true 3 AM blues tune. You hear the warnings, see the signs, and you KNOW the storm is coming, but you don't know when. Walking on eggshells to prevent it, but you are at that stage in a relationship (or life) where you know it is right outside.

“On ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Bob Trenchard actually gave me the lyrics to this tune for a melody with another artist in mind. After we demo-ed it, he and Jim liked the way I sang it, so we decided to put it on this album.  It’s a timeless story of young love that is supposed to last forever. The accordion added the retro feel of a Tex-Mex blues groove.”

Sandy calls “Messin’ with Me” a “goddess song with a funky groove; a full-blown woman who knows it. On ‘Baby Comin' Home,’ I wanted to accomplish a stride piano feel with a simple theme of a woman returning after sowing a few wild oats and finding out what she was looking for was already there. ‘Just As I Am’ was written as a love song to my husband and we wanted to capture the essence of the lyrics and the simplicity of the melody with just piano, guitar and accordion,” she recalls.

An interesting historical twist is that on the Just As I Am CD cover, Sandy Carroll is pictured against the graffiti wall that is now part of the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street in Memphis. During construction, this one wall was left unpainted from when the Beale Street Studios occupied the building.  Jim Gaines recorded Luther Allison's version of “Just As I Am” there and Sandy was lucky enough to witness it.  So ... the CD and art have come full circle.

Sandy Carroll is originally from a small town in McNairy County, Tennessee, but considers Memphis to be her musical home and has spent much of her career in the area, recording and singing in clubs around the mid-south. After playing on the road for five years, she headlined at the Lafayette's Corner club on famed Beale Street when the street re-opened in 1983. 

“It was a great adventure to be on Beale in those days and I did a lot of writing as a solo artist sitting at a beautiful grand piano and watching history re-unfold,” recalls Carroll, who also worked with such Memphis legends as Jim Dickinson. “For several years after that, I wrote and recorded in San Francisco, but had the opportunity to come home to Memphis and work with the great Willie Mitchell. I moved back full time in 1992 and released the album, Southern Woman, returning to Beale Street and touring the UK as a solo artist.” 

In 1997, she released her next album, Memphis Rain, and was nominated for a Premier Player Songwriting award by the Memphis NARAS chapter. During that time, she wrote for Albert King, Luther Allison, Reba Russell, Anna Popovic, Ellis Hooks, Barbara Blue and other artists.  In 2006, she released Delta Techno, an album produced by Jim Gaines, which generated extensive radio airplay and also made the Roots Blues Charts.  In 2008, she was awarded a note on Beale Street and in 2010 the note was “put to rest” in front of the Hard Rock Cafe.  This year, Carroll filmed a show that is to be part of an upcoming documentary called “Ladies of Beale,” which celebrates all the women who have a note on the street.

Visit Sandy's Facebook page: Sandy Carroll and the Bessie Blues Band

Reviews are pouring In!

Catfood Records CFR-011 (39:01)

This is singer/songwriter Sandy Carroll's debut for Catfood Records. Husband Jim Gaines produced and the set was recorded in Stantonville, Tennessee. All the material is original, penned, or co-penned by Carroll. She is a fine singer, capable of handling a gospel tinged number like "Blessed Be," or the slightly tongue-in-cheek humorous piece, "Mother Nature," on the efficacious effects of Botox! "Heartfixin' Man" is a tough blues groove with a rock ting", "Romeo And Juliet" a pretty ballad with accordion giving it a Tex-Mex groove, while "Messin' With Me" is a funky groove that reminds me a little of Leon Russell. "Just As I Am" was co-written with James Solberg and Luther Allison; Luther cut it on his Reckless album (produced by Jim Gaines), so the wheel has come full circle. Sandy Carroll is a new name to me, and I am seriously impressed with this lady, a fine singer and songwriter (and no slouch on the piano either). If you are familiar with her previous releases this CD will not disappoint.

- Phil Wight


From Blues Revue magazine

Sandy Carroll
Just As I Am
Catfood Records
BluesWax Rating: 9

Just As She Is...

Just As I Am is Sandy Carroll's debut album (due out on October 18) on the Catfood Records label. And quite the album it is. Carroll has been singing the blues and paying dues for a while now. She headlined at the Lafayette's Corner club on Beale Street in Memphis when that famed street re-opened in 1983. She has her own note on Beale Street and has released several other well received albums for other labels. All songs on the album are written or co-written by Carroll. Powerful and compelling songs they are, too. But then she has written songs for some of the best in the business, including Reba Russell, Albert King, Luther Allison, Ana Popovic, and Ellis Hooks. The title track, "Just As I Am," was co-written and recorded by Allison for his 1997 album Reckless. After listening to Carroll's rendition and picking up on the warmth and tenderness in her voice, it was not a surprise to learn she wrote the lyrics as a love song for her Grammy-winning producer/husband, Jim Gaines. It is difficult to pick one or even two favorites from the album. "Blessed Be" is a song of hope, full of energy reflecting the gratitude we should feel because there is always something to be thankful for. "Help Mother Nature" is an amusing tune about preserving what Mother Nature gave you. A little nip here, a tuck there, a little wait in line when you get the botox blues. Yes, the song is a bit contrary to the CD title but not seriously so. "Slow Kisses" provides a bit of advice to fellas who want to treat their women right. "Baby Comin' Home" is a story about searching for something and realizing it is right there in your own backyard. A story of young love is told in "Romeo and Juliet," but it is not the undying love of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers. It is the story of a love that was never supposed to be, of the promise of forever that was not realized. No doubt the production by Grammy-winning husband Jim Gaines is a big factor in the appeal of the album. Many producer wanna-be's should take note. This CD is classic example of how less is more. The background vocalists - Reba Russell, "Pie" Hill, Kimberly Helton, and Vicki Atkins - stand out without overpowering or detracting from Carroll's lead vocals. They add power and depth to each song. But the strength of this CD is the songwriting and vocal talent of Sandy Carroll herself.

Sandy Carroll
Just As I Am
Catfood Records

Sandy Carroll is one impressive songwriter. On her latest album, Just As I Am, she covers a broad range of emotions, yet still she manages to handle each and every one with such a soul-felt precision that you can’t help but feel your own mood waver and shift at her command. She’ll make you smirk, strut, sing along, and sizzle. Carroll is also quite adept at crooning in a multitude of shades of blue. Her chocolaty vocals can raise spirits in a rocking gospel chant, ignite passions with a sultry suggestion, or knock her adversary down for the count with the cocky attitude of a funky goddess. When “Help Mother Nature” begins, it sounds like it could be a Wiccan anthem urging you to worship Mother Nature. However, eventually you realize that Sandy is actually singing — tongue-in-botoxed-cheek — about aging! “Waiting For The Storm” is a sweltering, late night blues song about the ever-impending threat of that first crack of lightning which heralds a torrential downpour in a relationship. Sandy really nails the vocals on “Romeo And Juliet” with an effortless James Dean meets “The Boss” kind of cool. “Slow Kisses” is a fun, stride-driven, steamy lesson on how to kiss a woman. Her voice growls and purrs with a smoldering intensity that makes you want to practice what you’ve just been taught again and again! The artist claims her womanly power in the scrumptiously cocky, “Messin’ With Me,” a potent, in-your-face declaration of feminine swagger. Carroll really owns this track! Ending with the tender, “Just As I Am,” provides a wonderfully memorable and warm closing that settles all the dust she’s kicked up throughout the rest of the album. Sandy Carroll is an artist with a substantial stockpile of natural flair and refined skills at her fingertips. Just As I Am is a robust showcase of Carroll’s engaging artistry.

BY: Allen Foster, Editor Songwriter's Monthly


Nepotism cuts both ways.  Sometimes it gives a schlock artist a platform they don’t deserve, sometimes it let’s the world know about Jim Gaines wife as he produces her in fine style.  The CD opens with a sonic crack to get your head up and it doesn’t back down from there.  A blues belter with r&b in her bloodstream, this set is on the money throughout.  A high octane date with an overall positive message, letting some Nawlins/gospel into the mix as well, it’s a dandy ear opener making you glad that Gaines fell for more than just a pretty face.  Check it out.

– Chris Spector




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