Imelda May’s marriage of 18 years recently ended, and “Life, Love, Flesh, Blood” finds her on the romantic rebound. As May gets back into the game, she makes even the words “rub-a-dub-dub” sound sexy.
The versatile Irish singer conveys her emotional ups and downs by belting to the back row and, with equal ease, dropping down to a near whisper. “Can’t take it no more,” she sings on “Sixth Sense,” spitting out the words. “Should’ve Been You” surveys the wreckage of a relationship backed by happy horns that contrast with her angry words: “I’m the best thing that you ever had.”
May’s songs recall the 1950s and ‘60s songs of Roy Orbison, Phil Spector and Leiber and Stoller, and she closes the album with convincing forays into gospel (“When It’s My Time”), rock (“Leave Me Lonely”) and folk (“The Girl I Used To Be”). Helping to ensure success with her stylistic adventures are producer T Bone Burnett and a crack lineup that includes guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Jay Bellerose
There’s blood on these tracks, but also resilience and staying power. May’s music sounds retro – and timeless, too.