Album Reviews

Sandra McCracken – Best Laid Plans

(shell) UK release date: 2 August 2004


While the likes of Shawn Colvin and Sarah McLachlan have enjoyed much success over recent years, the name of Sandra McCracken has pretty much stayed under the radar so far. Yet the singer-songwriter from Nashville is tipped to make a bid for the big-time with her third album, Best Laid Plans.

After releasing her first two albums through her website and local independent shops this represents her first mainstream release. And there are already signs of success with first single, Last Goodbye, already on the Radio 2 playlist. The single, reminiscent of Ms Colvin or even Sheryl Crow with its ballsy electric guitars, does not have the kind of catchy chorus that you are always looking out for in a chart hit. Sadly, this is a theme that continues throughout the album.

What the album does have in abundance though is heartfelt lyrics. Piano-leaden first song Plenty and final track Age After Age serve as examples of this, as well as of McCracken’s impressive voice, which she adapts just as easily to in slower or more up-tempo numbers.

There is no doubt about the highlight track of the album is – the bouncy 500 Miles. It comes as no surprise that this is apparently a crowd favourite at gigs, as it has all the elements of a good pop song. It’s a very simple tune, and as soon as you hear the chorus for the first time it immediately becomes lodged in your head. By three minutes in you will find yourself singing along. A song with clear single potential.

The real surprise of the album is the unlikely cover version of Peter Sarstedt‘s Where Do You Go To My Lovely. This is one of those great old songs and it’s amazing it hasn’t been covered more often, especially when you consider inspired lyrics like, “You know the Aga Khan. He sent you a race horse for Christmas and you keep it just for fun, for a laugh, aha aha.” This is a good version too, albeit minus the accordion that was such a trademark of the original and those famous “aha aha” moments. A shame, but the French-sounding acoustic guitars are there in abundance.

The rest of the album unfortunately is pretty much run-of-the-mill American folk-rock with too many songs sounding just like the last one. There is some Jethro Tull-inspired flute on Sons Of Cain to break the monotony but the songs just aren’t memorable.

McCracken’s time may still come, and there are glimpses that the potential is there, but for those looking for talented female singer-songwriters yet to make headlines my advice would be to check out the likes of Lucy Kaplansky or Gretchen Peters first.


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