19 Dec 2017 (19:00)
€43.55 (€43.55 members)
Leisureland, Galway. Standing.
If you don't know Imelda May, prepare to be blown away. If you are already a fan, get ready to hear her as you never have before. She has found a new groove, exploring blues, soul, gospel, folk, rock, sensitive acoustica, cinematic drama and explosive balladry on a set of the boldest, most personal and intimately autobiographical songs she has ever written. Long celebrated by peers as one of the most sensational singers of contemporary music, Imelda May has made the album of her life“I've called it Life Love Flesh Blood because that encompasses everything,” says Imelda. “It's all in there: birth, sex, love, divorce and death. It's the story of my life.”The album was produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett and features a band of some of the finest musicians in America with guest appearances by guitar hero Jeff Beck and piano maestro Jools Holland. Longtime Imelda May fan Bono has already been singing its praises: “I love the girl she used to be but I think I love even more the woman she’s become. Still mischievous and playful, still a siren but there’s an ache in her voice now that has me with a glass at my ear to the wall of her world where trouble has entered the room. There’s an erotic power here that’s not just feminine power. She makes truth telling an invitation to intimacy.”Imelda has been through a lot in the run up to recording. She became a mother for the first time in 2012 but her eighteen year marriage ended in 2015, coinciding with a burst of creativity. “Most songwriters use writing as a form of counselling. It's therapy, like keeping a diary that a lot of people read.”
In the past she would sometimes “hide things in my songs and twist them around.” But this time, she is telling it exactly how it is. “I wanted to go straight to the bone.I had a lot to write about. Life changes, falling out of and falling in love again. It's the whole circle of love and life.” Song titles tell a story in themselves: Call Me, Black Tears, Shoulda Been You, Leave Me Lonely, It's My Time, The Girl I Used To Be. “I don't know how I'm going to go out and sing these songs,” she says. “I can hardly talk about them.” Her musical range is breathtaking, from the classic fifties rock and soul melodrama of bitter ballad Black Tears to the slinky, sensuous How Bad Can A Good Girl Be? “That's my slut song,” laughs Imelda. “It seems to make a lot of guys blush.” Bono has called it “a stone cold classic that’ll outlive all of us.” “Bono has been a mentor to me and its amazing to have someone like that to bounce things off,” she says of her compatriot. “He seemed to like that song. He said, 'Shit, I wish I'd written it.' I can't quite see him singing about being a bad girl though!” Imelda knew before she had even begun work on Life Love Flesh Blood that it was time for a change of musical direction. “I love the rawness of rockabilly but it's just one of the many musics that inspired me. I also love my punk, blues and jazz and it was always mixed in there.” Her 2014 album Tribal, she says “meant a lot to me becauseI knew I had got to the end of that road. I wanted to go as far as I could, so that I could step away from it.” It was her highest chart toppingalbum worldwide, going to number one in Ireland, and top three in the UK. She started writing songs for the follow up with “no preconceived notions of where it was going to go. My plan was to have no plan. Because it was freedom. It was liberating.” Producer T Bone Burnett is a veteran of sessions with everyone from Bob Dylan to Elton John. “He said he’d had his eye on me for a long time but I wasn’t ready for him,” laughs Imelda. “He had been watching from afar and liked what I was doing, then he heard my new demos and thought the time had come.”
Throughout her career, Imelda has produced or co-produced herself but this time she wanted to take a back seat. “T Bone is such a strong character. I really wanted to see how he did it and take it in. Whereas before I'd have a tendency to getting stuck in and be directing things, he taught me to get the right people, set it up well and just step back.”The album was recorded in LA with a core trio of guitarist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and bassist ZachDawes (The Last Shadow Puppets, Mini Mansions). “How lucky am I? Marc Ribot is a guitar scientist, I love everything he does. I called Jay Bellerose the Octopus. It's like he grows arms when he's playing. And Zachjust got a really nasty, buzzy thing going on. We went straight in and recorded 15 tracks in seven days. The adrenaline was flying, it was electric and fresh. The songs aren’t jaded from going through them a million times.” They later added strings, Hammond organ and double bass. Imelda's old sparring partner Jeff Beck volunteered to play on Black Tears. “It's the most beautiful solo. I went to Jeff’s house to record it and then he heardWhenIt's My Time and said he wanted that solo as well. I said no, Jools is playing on it. He said 'Fuck Jools, take him off, I want to play on it!' It was quite a moment in my life, Jeff Beck fighting over a solo with Jools Holland. But Jools does a gorgeous job on it.”Such stellar talents don't congregate by chance. Imelda's reputation as a vocalist can be deduced from the company she keeps, performing over the years with Lou Reed, Smokey Robinson, Tom Jones, Meat Loaf, David Gilmore, Sinead O'Connor, Wanda Jackson, Lulu, Paolo Nutini, The Dubliners, The Chieftains, U2, Robert Plantand many more. We have never heard her sing like she does on this album though, moving from tender intimacy to seductive sensuality to swaggering bluesy raunch. “I wanted to explore my voice,” says Imelda. “I've always loved women in rock and roll and whenIstarted, I just wanted to go for it. But I've done my screeching. It was time to really sing.”As a mark of just how accomplished a vocalist Imelda really is, T Bone left her to complete all the backing vocals herself. When he returned to the studio days later, he was so knocked out he wanted to know where she had found the gospel choir for It's My Time. “I was putting on lots of different voices 'cos I wanted them all to sound like different people. One of them I called Gladys. Gladys hit the high notes. Is it weird that I sing all my own backing vocals? I love to do it, cos itsfun. And the record company love it, 'cos its cheap.” On the bluesy, tongue-in-cheek Bad Habit she says “I wanted loads of call and response. I had Sly and the Family Stone in my head. I've loved their backing vocals since I was a teenager, 'cos it was soloose and free and just sounded off the cuff.” On the imperious Human, she says she “threw in all these crazy backing vocals as a tribute to Lou Reed, David Bowie and T-Rex. It was fabulous to acknowledge their influence in a small way.” The sentimentof Human is an interesting one that reveals a lot about Imelda's approach to the album. “You hear all these love songs where guys are singing to girls -be my angel, my princess, my queen, my baby. And I thought I’m none of them things. I want to be your human. We all have flaws and faults, and I want you to adore me but I will fall off the pedestal that I hope you put me on.” It is the strength, character, wit and emotion of the songwriting that ultimately sets this apart from Imelda's previous work. Black Tears is an utterly devastating ballad. “When a woman cries, her eye make up streams, and she hasblack tears falling down her face. Its a dark sentiment for a dark song.” Opening track, Call Me, is another song of quiet desperation. “It's the horrible time when you are willing the phone to ring, begging for the name to pop up, and it doesn’t. I wanted to keep it simple. Some of my favourite songs don’t say much, but they say everything.” Shoulda Been You is a pointed tale of domestic disharmony. “I wrote that alone under the bed covers, singing into the phone. I think a lot of women feel like that at times. You're juggling
everything, family and work, taking care of everybody, the kids, the husbands and parents, and there is that moment when you think, well, who takes care of me?” Life Love Flesh Blood has a very sensuous, sexual female power at its core. “There was a few eyebrows raised. I don’t think there's anything wrong with passion,lust and eroticism and being swept away by it. Unlike many people, I don’t find any guilt in pleasure.” The lush, spooky Levitate is a song of desire that sounds like a lost Bond theme. “It's about that lovely moment when you feel reawakened. When every things been shut down and you start to fire up again, you can feel the fire in your blood, the heat going into your cold hands and you're levitating towards it, you can't stop.” It could be a metaphor for Imelda's awakening to her own power as a songwriter and performer.Imelda May doesn't just sound different. She actually looks physically different. Somehow darker, stronger, more sensuously feminine and adult. “I always loved the Fifties rockabilly style but there was a point where I felt I was almost dressing up as Imelda May. It was as if I was getting into character for a gig. And I didn’t want to do that any more. This is me.” So meet the new Imelda May and prepare to be amazed. “Life changed. I love the albums I made before. They were honest to the person I was,” says Imelda. “But that was then ... and this is now.”