Michelle Malone spends a couple of hundred days a year on the road, sharing stages with the likes of ZZ Top, Joan Jett, the Indigo Girls, and Johnny Winter. She’s at her inconsistent best when she’s at her finger-lickin’ greasiest — a sound she creates with her bottleneck slide guitar — and just a little bit rowdy, such as on songs like “Tighten Up the Springs (On the Bed)” and “Soul Chicken.”
Lyrically, Malone tries a little too hard for the rock-blues sub-genre, claiming on the jangly “Where is the Love” that love is like “a stray, rebellious bird / Call it, and you’ll never hear a word,” and asking on the almost gospel-like “Beyond the Mountain,” “Where is the love you promised me, beyond the mountain, behind the sea, waiting for me?”
In the blues, poetry — even doggerel — is in the simplicity of everyday experience described in everyday terms, and in the near-wordless feelings embedded in the music. Malone, whom Playboy once described as a musician who “embraces her inner-Keith Richards” while also comparing her to Lucinda Williams, should take note. On Sugarfoot, her ninth full-length album, she doesn’t quite stack up to either Richards’ playing or Williams’ writing and recorded performances. Nothing’s wrong with what’s here. There’s just nothing particularly right, either.