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Sandi Thom

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The real Sandi Thom has stepped forward, and surely no one has ever been quite so happy to get the blues.

On June 7, a new Sandi emerges with ‘Merchants and Thieves,’ an album that brilliantly reflects how she’s opened up a whole new channel for her creativity. Retaining her innate feeling for a powerful melody and a trenchant lyric, the record adds the new blues sensibility that visitors to her famously powerful gigs have sensed for themselves in recent months.

At Celtic Connections in Glasgow in January, for instance, devotees and newcomers watched in shared amazement as Sandi took lead guitar for the first time on the album’s excellent, early Fleetwood Mac-inspired ‘Gold Dust’ and then led the band through Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks.’

Thom was encouraged to bring her long-held love of such heritage music to the fore, and her respect for such guitar giants as Peter Green, as fate called for her to sit in as vocalist with Joe Bonamassa, when the modern-day blues titan lost his voice. There’s no better endorsement than his presence on the album as both singer and guitarist on the album’s lead track, ‘This Ol’ World.’ Sandi calls it a “watershed moment,” and it’s as lithe and lively a piece of contemporary blues as you’ll hear all year.

“When I did Joe’s dates, the reaction at first was like ‘What?’,” she remembers. “Then we got on stage and the reaction was brilliant. Now, the way that music’s turning, it’s so much about the touring, so I’m really excited about the world I’m entering. The cool thing I’ve found from entering this new world of the blues is that they’re the most dedicated fans I’ve ever come across, because they’re true music fans.”

The million-selling platinum-selling Scottish troubadour has long since proved the sheer power of her songwriting, with her album and single chart-topping adventures. Now, four years after her debut album ‘Smile...It Confuses People’ and the massive hit single ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker’ both raced to the top of the UK charts on the way to combined sales of about 1.5 million worldwide, Sandi’s back with a fresh sound that reflects her real self, and she couldn’t be happier about it.

“It’s the record I always wanted to make, and the good thing is I didn’t know it while I was making it,” she says of an album made in a deliberately no-frills style at a Brighton studio. “There were no deadlines, no people going ‘You should work with this person,’ it was me, my producer Jake Field, guitarist Randall Breneman we were the songwriters. We weren’t like ‘Oh, we must make it commercial, have a big chorus, blah blah.’ In a really good way, it made me make the best record I could have made.”

We know the backstory, of how the girl from Aberdeenshire went to the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, and then how a webcam on her D-I-Y gigs at home in Tooting helped win her a record deal that led to massive acclaim. “Everyone who knows me always says there’s never a dull moment,” she smiles.

That phase of her life was indeed rarely dull, especially one time she vividly remembers in New York. “I remember very distinctly that I was wearing something like pyjamas, and a baseball cap, and I looked up at the billboard in Times Square and I was on it. That was the moment, drop the coffee, holy shit.”

What you might not know is that she looks back on that time without rancour. “My journey from 2005 to the present day has been pretty mad,” she says. “But it’s been great, it all contributes to the songwriting.”

The one thing I re-established recently is the confidence in myself as a songwriter, as a musician. You go through that feeling of people saying ‘That’ll be the end of you,’ and I don’t think it will, actually. In all honesty, the people at Sony were all just trying to do their jobs. Sometimes it’s just too many chiefs and not enough indians.”

So the title ‘Merchants and Thieves’ shouldn’t be interpreted too directly. “It’s a Chris Whitley lyric,” she explains. “It could refer to the past, and maybe it does in some subconscious way, but it’s not supposed to be taken too literally.”

Sandi mounted her own tour at the beginning of last year, and then some kind of destiny got involved. “All sorts of things that have happened in the last year, whether it’s fate or whatever, have all steered it in this direction. If you play with good intentions, people react to that, when you really mean it. The great thing about making this record is that I always write better when I can be honest.”

 

http://www.sandithom.com

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