(2014 SLR Records)
Buy and stream the album here.
Sarah Lou Richards will perform with Josh Harty and Old Soul Society at the High Noon Saloon on Saturday, March 19th. Josh Harty will celebrate the release of his excellent new album, Holding On (read the review here). Old Soul Society will also celebrate the release of their debut the Farm Sessions (read that review here). The show is part of BandSwap, an effort supported by the City of Madison and overseen by the Madison Arts Commission.
Sarah Lou Richards was born in Hudson, Wisconsin where she spent most of her first decade before moving to Connecticut. She spent time at UW-Eau Claire and afterward was teaching back in Connecticut. Then she made a gutsy move to Nashville in 2007 after being bitten by the performance bug. She took up songwriting and her music career has shown a clear trajectory from singer/songwriter to the type of full-blown production values on display on her second full-length album, The Woman Behind the Curtain.
Richards has incorporated what might be thought of as the Nashville sound into her music. Influenced by a host of mainstream country and alt-country artists her sound could be best described as top-forty country, integrating pop and rock elements and buoyed by top flight session artists, some of whom appear with her as her backup band the Handsome Devils. Richards has the kind of voice that’s perfectly suited for this style of music, she has a wide range, ample control, spot-on pitch, a mild country weep and all delivered with powerful confidence. Her lyrics are confessional and although she doesn’t appear battle-scarred on the surface there is an underlying experience that indicates a life well-lived and more than a few lessons learned, all without taking herself too seriously.
A good example is “Mile Marker 1,” where she lets go of the perfections and sings a bit more straight from the gut.
Another song being pushed as a single is “Avery,” with a lyrical nod to Wisconsin and a full-blown video production. It’s got all the hallmarks of a star-building country music hit with just the right amount of crossover appeal to achieve wider radio play.
The ballads on The Woman Behind the Curtain stand out with emotionally-delivered vocals. “One Word” and especially “What Kind of Fool,” with a lush arrangement featuring some beautifully played strings.
The Woman Behind the Curtain was produced by Gary Nichols, lead singer of bluegrass band The Steel Drivers. The arrangement came about after he and Richards recorded a duet, “I Ain’t Easy to Love,” at FAME and NuttHouse studios in Muscle Shoals and Sheffield, Alabama respectively. With a Grammy-winner like Nichols behind her, Richards’ future seems unstoppable. Expect her to be on the Grammy stage herself soon.