If you’ve never heard of Sandra Esparza before you came across this album – “Just Sandra” – you will be mightily impressed. Why? She throws all the modern day musical canons out of the window, and takes music back to its bare roots – melody, words and emotion. The tracks are raw and under-produced, using simple organic instruments, probably in a live-take session. She reminds me somehow of a modern day troubadour from the sixties or early seventies. Very engaging voice, pure instrumentation, and emotional storytelling.
Sandra Esparza is audacious in how morose, at times sullen, she can be. She stretches out, breaks with structure and seems to sing for an audience of one, which makes her performances utterly intimate. Her voice is absolutely impacting, along with her storytelling, but it’s almost like she’s aware of how beautiful it can be and so uses it relatively sparingly, singing how her emotion guides her. There’s something righteous and fierce in this.
Ultimately, Sandra is trying to be as honest as possible in her performances. And, I think that’s where, on a deeper level, her authenticity comes through – whatever the performance, it is wrought of an attempt at emotional truth. Sandra understands the delicate nature of being human, which means she’s focused on living, loving, losing, and ultimately growing along the way. It’s those elements that become catalysts for the songs on “Just Sandra”.
The acoustic tunings of Sandra Esparza offers something more than just tales of romance, it’s the heart of trying to understand the realities of her world and relationships, be it her inner-self or on a wider scale, which is always present and what positions Sandra as someone to be listened to, not just musically but her sentiments.
From her personal aspirations on the piano-driven “Dreams of Velvet” to the guitar strummed “Tired Heart” which comes from a darker place in her life, Sandra intimately portrays her mindset, the one that’s paved the way for her to survive to this point.
It’s this predominant facet of humanity which pulses throughout “Just Sandra”; dealing with other humans, and just surviving in a world that may not always be on your side. Sound-tracking her experiences, causes life to breathe itself into the swing of whatever day you’re having.
The sentimental lessons on “Small Infinity” and “His Song” nuzzle their way into the crooks of your heart, while the dominant piano that runs through “Hold You Again” sweeps up your attention. The afflicting heartfelt ambiance continues with “Stuck” and “Calling”.
Ultimately, these songs are also an exploration of womanhood and female identity, in relationships that are like double-edged swords. On them, Sandra Esparza manages to beautifully walk the line between fierce and vulnerable, lamenting the struggle of both wanting to be needed, and needing to be free.
She gives herself over to both her conscious and subconscious, spinning songs out of sentiments, afflictions and hopes. Throughout “Just Sandra”, the singer-songwriter engages in highly introspective songwriting, as her passion opens numerous possibilities.
There’s an effortlessness to the songs on this album. Not that they didn’t take work, but rather that Sandra Esparza didn’t allow herself to tinker with what she had created, thus representing the immediate spontaneity of her own creativity. The songs on “Just Sandra” are written out like memoirs, or diary notes that allow Sandra to let go of whatever she is feeling.