Molly Simms’ voice is too big to be contained by one mere band or project. The singer, songwriter and guitarist came to local prominence as the leader of the Bible Belt Sinners, and that band’s 2014 EP, Sunday Best, paired Simms’ strident delivery with the tried-and-true strains of punk and rockabilly. The songs were fun flashes of attitude and twangy discord, but Simms’ solo work — first heard on 2013’s Revenants and the just-released One Way Ticket — offer her a wider stylistic and emotional range.
For her new album, Simms assembled a varied and sympathetic band of local players that would be hard to match: funk/R&B maestro Al Holliday lays down soulful organ and electric piano, former Trip Daddy Jamey Almond plays bass and Zagk Gibbons (CaveofswordS, Old Capital Square Dance Club) does double duty on drums and co-production (Zach Anderson adds lead guitar on a few tracks as well). Together, the band supports Simms through a variety of roots-rock tropes as she uses her lyrics to navigate the space between love and self-actualization.
“I’m so good at breaking hearts,” Simms sings on the title track. It’s not a boast, exactly, but in song after song, Simms shows how ready she is to say goodbye — to old lovers, to her old life, and to whole cities that left her dry. “Fodder for the Songs” twists and spins with a new-wave energy as Simms spits fire at an ex; the next song, “Drive That Nail,” emits a tenderness both in instrumentation and delivery, as Holliday’s plinking electric piano lays a soft foundation for Simms’ slightly dolorous vocals.
If Simms seldom has to worry about the power of her voice, she’s still figuring out how best to deploy it in these songs. She hits the righteous vigor of Lucinda Williams (a common comparison) in songs like the white-knuckling “Goodbye St. Louis” (first heard as a Bible Belt Sinners cut) and the swampy bayou grooves of “Low Down Broke.” Opening track “Can’t You See” has a killer chorus but proves harder to navigate in the verses, and Simms can rely too heavily on similar patterns of delivery. But with the sound and stories on One Way Ticket, Simms shows her willingness to re-create, reconstruct and grow, and she doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Simms will release her new album this Friday at Off Broadway. Meanwhile, watch the new music video for "Can't You See" below:
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Miss Molly Simms Record Release Show
8 p.m. Friday, September 4. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $10. 314-773-3363.