By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
This is a superb album by a songwriter who chooses to sit out the rat race of performing and the club circuit. Sandy Knox sounds too good not to be onstage. Soulful and heartbreaking, even when she gets weepy, this tough chick lays her life out on the line. You don't have to be a woman pushing 40, as the title suggests, to feel it. When those second glances cease to occur for a lady making her entrance to the dance--this right-of-passage may be impossible for a 21-year-old lass to worry about. But men are just as likely to relate. "Childless" is a unique tearjerker, a regretful lament whose subject's biological clock has just ticked past her child-bearing years.
Recorded by Knox a few years ago, this studio album was just released on the new American Originals label. The label specializes in Americana songwriters recorded live at the Bluebird in Nashville. Exceptionally produced and arranged by Mark Prentice, each song on Pushin' 40 is sculpted to show off its best qualities. A beautiful Keith Richards-style spare rhythm guitar, by George Marinelli, fuels "This Is Gonna Hurt." Background vocals (and laughter) also rise above the usual Nashvegas soul, to an artful degree.
Here are the facts: Houston-born Sandy Knox lives in Austin where she teaches songwriting at the University of Texas. She doesn't perform live. She began her nine-to-five Nashville songwriting career at age 24. Things heated up in 1993, when Dionne Warwick recorded "Where My Lips Have Been," a smoldering number about kissing every inch of her boyfriend's body. Knox presents her version herein. Neil Diamond, Patti LaBelle, Liza Minnelli and Donna Summer have recorded her material. Yet one of the motivations behind this project was to release songs put on hold by major artists who hesitated after initial acceptance. The songs weren't bland enough, after all. Even melody-wise, Sandy Knox has a knack that is superior to the current Nashville standard.
Traditional "pop" music has become the most overplayed, overwritten genre in history. About 99 percent of it no longer carries any pretense of having original melody any longer. Country is now the category for what was once rock and pop. And corporate country music is nearly always devoid of original melodies. Virtually all tunes on country radio are endlessly recycled clichés; it's the lyrics that take twists and turns--though not many. But Sandy Knox has something to say, and she puts forth 13 of her oh-so-personal songs in a manner that would've landed her a lucrative contract in the 1970s. They just don't play this stuff on commercial radio now, with the exception of Clapton, and sometimes Billy Joel. Knox has what used to be called talent.
So, you unfortunately won't hear much of this album in any radio format. Her type of craftsmanship is nearly as obsolete as that of a cobbler. Furthermore, she reveals her pain and personal life perhaps a tad too much for most folks. But anyone who gets this naked in their songs--and with such a sultry voice, to boot--deserves a medal for bravery.