Recorded in Muscle Shoals’ Nutthouse Recording Studio with producer Gary Nichols, best known as the guitarist and lead singer for Grammy-nominated bluegrass group the Steel Drivers, The Woman Behind the Curtain marks Richards’ first time recording with a full band. The basic elements of her 2010 debut, Ruby Red Shoes — an album that combined sharp, observational songwriting with the hooks of pop music and the twang of country — are still intact, but they’ve become part of a larger, louder puzzle. If that debut album (which was produced by Henry Paul, frontman for the ’90s multi-platinum country band BlackHawk) showcased Richards’ strength as a singer/songwriter, The Woman Behind the Curtain proves she can pack a punch as a bandleader, too.
“One of my favorite songs here is a track called ‘Nothing Left,’ which is about giving all you have until there’s nothing left to give,” says Richards, a road warrior who’s spent the past four years touring. “That’s where I’m at in my career right now. I’m stretching the rubber band as far as it’ll go. With this new album, I knew it was time to make a bigger sound.”
Inspired by the raw, rootsy songwriting of Brandi Carlile and Patti Griffin — and featuring a new generation of A-list session musicians from Muscle Shoals, including guitarist James LeBlanc — The Woman Behind the Curtain casts an eclectic net. “Nod to Neil” rustles up the mid-century vibe of a sock hop. “Don’t Break My Heart” rides a bluesy, laid-back groove. “I Ain’t Easy to Love” is a classic-sounding country duet, with Richards and Nichols both sharing the lead vocals.
On an album filled with guitars, piano, fiddle, Wurlitzer organ and even the occasional banjo, Richards is still the star. Her voice — which Gary Nichols likens to Alison Krauss, Lee Ann Womack and Martina McBride — is the most moving instrument here, whether it’s crooning one of Richards’ original songs or delivering a tune originally written by one of her friends from Nashville’s songwriting community. Together, the tracks help paint the picture of a songwriter who’s unafraid to wear her influences on her sleeve, as long as she can push the envelope in the process.
“My home is filled with my family’s things,” she says. “My quilts are my grandma’s. My dishes are my parents’. Everything is really mismatched, but it still fits, and that’s how this whole album feels. There’s a variety of tempos, a variety of styles, a variety of lyrics… but overall, every song is still me. It’s a big tapestry of me.”
Sarah Lou is also proud to be involved with a couple of excellent causes. Souls 4 Soles is helping to fight global poverty by providing clothing and shoes to people in need, while also helping to develop micro-enterprise programs in communities around the world. Musicians On Call brings bedside performances to patients in hospitals and health care facilities. To date they have been responsible for facilitating nearly half a million performances around the country. You can learn more about these great causes at the following links:
Sarah Lou Richards Fall 2014 Tour:
11/7- Brown’s Diner- Nashville TN