SARAH JANE NELSON
I’m Not Broken
Powerful, Passionate and Insightful Songs of Break-Up and Redemption.
Nashville based, single mum of two Sarah Jane Nelson is a new name to me and probably to most other music lovers here in the UK. But, don’t let that prevent you from not giving her more than a second glance at this review of her new album.
Fact is, Sarah Jane is a revelation and delivers a coherent set of songs that reflect her recent past and how she comes to terms with a broken marriage. However, what unfolds through the songs is a resilient, determined and brave lady who has delved deep into her soul to write and record 11 fine tracks, plus a bonus of an acoustic cover of The Backstreet Boys finest from over 20 years ago.
Don’t though expect spite and vitriol.
Yes, I can hear pain, humiliation and sadness but it’s more the facing up to reality with a vivid honesty from a fighter determined to rebuild a life. This set of songs project a person who’ll damn-well make sure she bounces back. The opening track “Break our Hearts” has some sweet violin from Andrea Young plus a haunting pedal steel guitar from Smith Curry; behind a vocal duet that could quite easily be Faith Hill and Tim McGraw; it really is that good.
“Gone” has what is almost unique on country records these days; a wah-wah guitar inter-twined with pedal steel and banjo. But, let me stress, it works.
We then get a mid-tempo feel from a slightly more light-hearted “Dragged” where Sarah Jane tells us “you gotta let go, or you’re gonna get dragged”.
I really liked the opening line to “Her or Me” where we are told that “Whiskey is a woman, she says the sweetest things, One sip and you’re ready to dance”.
Whilst the guided missile lyrics of “I Only Cry at Night” hit the target, smack bang on the bulls eye.
If you were to push me for my favourite track, then the up-tempo fiddle, banjo and bottle-neck guitar of “Reap What You Sow” would probably be my preferred choice. It’s actually the chorus punchline that resonates with me, with Sarah telling us what she really, really thinks of her ex and his new partner:
“He’s a bag of dirt and you’re the hoe”.
Getting over the trauma of a marriage that went wrong (which sadly is a facsimile of her experience as a child via her own parents split) is the crystal clear theme throughout.
Nevertheless, don’t let that put you off, this is a Country album after all and a damn fine at that. Excellent songs containing lovely melodies and reflective, touching words.
The title of the album is blatantly apt, as it is plain for one and all to see that Sarah Jane Nelson is well on the way to being mended.
Don’t just take my word for it though, ask our Head of Operations (HOM) in our household, she is a huge fan of the aforementioned group of established female singer-songwriters in my final paragraph, and it is she who has commandeered the album and I strongly believe that I’ll struggle to get it back now.
Musically, Sarah Jane has some of Nashville’s finest providing a full and interesting backing that ensures a wide spectrum of instrumentation. The early years she spent in Broadway Shows undoubtedly weren’t wasted and vocally we hear an extremely warm, clear and strong voice.
If you like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea or Alison Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynne then you can add another name to the list.