* FIRST UK REVIEW *
(4 / 5)
Canadian artist Sandra Bouzo’s debut album, “Falling Away From Me” showcases a soulful and powerful vocal on a set of originals that she hopes will attract enough attention to secure future UK tour dates. I think it just might…
Released in Canada in February this year, it now gets its UK release and is a pleasing set of eight songs for a first album, sung with passion and conviction, and an even-listen produced, engineered and mixed by the co-writer of four of the cuts here, Hill Kourkotis (SATE, Jules). Sandra also penned three songs on her own and one with Kevin D.Cummings.
Hill also contributes on several instruments and backing vocals across the tracks. The other players here are Atilla and Frank Baraczka on bass and drums, Anthony Wright on piano, Stacie Tablo on backing vocals.
The lyric content of this set examines relationships from all angles: “from the thrill of discovery to the fallout of poor decisions”. Sandra will admit that these are songs rooted in hard-earned experience.
An r&b singer who blends commercial pop with a more soulful end of things, the Toronto native has lived, studied and worked around the world and this travel and multi cultural experience has fuelled her song writing. She was based in Morocco from 2015 to 2018 full time in music.
In her younger years she spent five months in Spain bi-annually, where her father was from. She was home-schooled in the mountains by her mother. After her late teens were spent performing in coffee shops in Canada, Sandra was accepted at University – in Scotland.
She went to St. Andrews University to get her Masters in Museum Studies. In only her second week there she met a guy on the beach playing guitar, and they started playing in a 10-piece soul-funk band. She also played solo in Dundee.
Back in Canada, Sandra relocated to Vancouver and there she made her first EP, “Kingdom on the Run”, in 2010. But she was not happy being pushed into the folk genre, and was also trying to handle an addiction at that time, now sober since 2015.
She then returned to Toronto, where she fronted an original funky-rock band called Redbrick in 2012, and gigged tirelessly for a few years. But in 2015, just one month into sobriety, Sandra got a referral to go to Morocco to play music.
It was supposed to be for six weeks, but it became three years, playing rock, blues, and Top 40 covers – as well as her favourite jazz and pop duo gigs with Brooklyn, NY transplant Kevin Cummings, who co-wrote “Human Connection” on this new album.
She was happy in the sunshine and making music her living, but was yearning to continue writing her own songs instead of performing covers, and went back to Canada where she focused on penning her own songs – finding her true self musically in the process.
The planned return to her life in Morocco was then cancelled, once she hooked up with producer Hill. The creative fire was lit and the 2018 EP “Three Years” – a reference to her sobriety – was the result. Which whetted her appetite for a full length album project, which spawned her debut two years later, due October 2020.
She’s home – and “at home” – in Toronto playing live regularly. Winner of the 2019 Toronto Blues Society Talent Search, and in January this year, of 2020 Sandra represented Toronto at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee with her band. Making it into the semi-finals out of 240 international artists.
The powerful opener “Almost Love” is one of the strongest cuts of the set, and you can see the official video to the song, below…
Vintage r&b on “Stone Junction”. There is another side of Sandra on “Not Like Me”, with a sultry vocal delivery. “Turn it Up” will prove to be a popular live song, no doubt. She has shades of Chrissie Hynde’s tone on “Losing You” and nods to Charlene Spiteri and Texas on the radio-ready and standout, “Human Connection”.
Penultimate cut, “East Side Woman” is the longest track at 5.22 – probably the most “produced” of the set with depth and feel to it. The closer “Wrong Songs”, features one of the best vocal performances on the record, and a solid piece of song writing from Sandra. Hill’s guitar licks, the icing on the cake.
Tough to pigeonhole this sound and these songs. As it is to try to do so with Sandra as an artist. So let’s not bother, eh? Morocco’s loss is the rest of the world’s gain, by the sound of this debut album…
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’