Today we’re reviewing the acoustic EP from Americana/roots singer-songwriter Sunny Ozell. Hammer and Nail includes four songs lifted from Sunny’s most recent album Overnight Lows, as well as a poignant cover of Los Lobos’ The Valley. The EP was recorded live and acoustic at The Village recording studios in Santa Monica.
The five tracks hold a very meaningful sense of place both geographically and spiritually. Driving Highways, for example, references the landscape of Sunny’s home state of Nevada, whilst The Garden speaks of the English countryside and the transience of travel and memory are central themes in Comes And It Goes.
The EP opens with the title track, Hammer And Nail, which takes its title and meaning from the Staples Singers song of the same name. This is the most overtly political song Sunny has released. It emphasises the importance of change from the ground up, and it’s the perfect opener to this EP. Sunny’s voice is earthy and strong; powerful when she wants it to be and vulnerable when she needs it to be.
Driving Highways is slower-paced, and there’s a small flicker of hope despite the repeated lyric ‘…the world outside looks so unkind’. The mellow, soulful strings move from dark to light as the song reaches a climax.
Comes And It Goes is a toe-tapper. The strings sound like a too-hot summer day in the desert, and the chorus of voices add a bluesy feel to this track. There’s a lot of joy in this song, in the vocal and the instrumentation – and plenty of groove, too. It’s a dance-around-the-kitchen kind of song.
The Garden is the downtempo interlude, with a mournful piano and string section driving the melody and haunting harmonies as the song builds.
Finally, The Valley – a stirring cover of a Los Lobos song about the arrival of the first settlers in the Valley of Mexico. It’s especially poignant today as so much of the world is embroiled in debate regarding immigration, history and equality.
This EP has been so thoughtfully prepared, from opening with a bang and a political statement, to a half-time dance party, a quiet moment and a strong finish to leave you thinking and wanting more – this is not at all what I expected it to be, and at the same time it’s everything and more. Sunny’s range is tremendous – vocally, powerfully and emotionally – and these five simple, acoustic tracks explore the full spectrum.
‘It was such a joy to return to The Village recording studios in Santa Monica late last summer to track some acoustic versions of a select group of my songs. I’d thought I would come away with some stripped-down “coffee house” kinda takes on the material; “acoustic” has often meant to me “soft” or “delicate”. But what these two days of tracking produced was something of a surprise: genuine re-imaginings of the songs themselves, albeit performed by all-acoustic instrumentation.’
Sunny has toured the UK regularly over the last several years and has become a staple of the Americana and Roots scene with tremendous support from BBC Radio 2, in addition to co-hosting the Americana UK award nominations with Baylen Leonard. Last year Sunny also headlined and co-curated a stage at the Red Rooster Festival in Suffolk, in association with the Americana Music Association UK and PRS, with a line-up of female artists.
Hammer & Nail Link Here