Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Amelia White: “Rhythm Of The Rain” (2019) CD Review

I was first turned on to the music of Amelia White nine years ago when Anne McCue covered her song “Motorcycle Dream” on Broken Promise Land. That was such a cool song that I felt a need to hear the original, and then wanted to hear more from this Nashville-based singer/songwriter. Amelia White composes songs with a poetic flair, but also a strong sense of character and purpose. There is something fearless about her writing and her delivery, a raw honesty that we need. Her new album, Rhythm Of The Rain, features all original tracks, written or co-written by Amelia White. Her co-writers on this release include folks like Lori McKenna and Anne McCue.

The new album opens with “Little Cloud Over Little Rock.” There are some pop elements to this song, which make it somewhat catchy, but what I really love is her vocal delivery, particularly the way she sometimes hangs onto certain words, like “forget” and “remember” in the line “I won’t forget to remember.” And speaking of vivid characters, check out these lines: “There’s a little smile on the tall bartender/Dyed black hair, earring feathers/She’s gotta put three kids through school/She’s sipping on the sly to keep her cool.”  That’s followed by “Rhythm Of The Rain,” the disc’s title track, which she begins by saying, “Don’t think too much, people.” The song then begins with a steady beat, and establishes a cool vibe. It is an interesting approach, for the song is largely folk, and that beat pushes the song into a different realm. But again it’s her voice that is the focus for me, and she does some playful things with it on lines like “I know that I can’t give him half of what he’s looking for.” This song has a positive feel, even as she sings lines like “Everything is wrong, tonight there is no peace/I’m gonna get down on my knees and let these tears roll down my face.”  As the song begins fades out, she adds thoughts like “The poor get poor, and the rich get richer,” a line that reminds of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows,” and a line that feels particularly apt in these dark days.

Amelia White begins “Free Advice” with these lines: “Somebody told me/As I was getting on stage/Somebody told me/You’re pretty cool for someone your age.” There is something humorous about this, of course, which is what strikes me first. But there is also something sad about it because this song rings true, and I get the sense that all the so-called advice mentioned in this song was actually given to her at some point. And it is depressing to know that people really think these things. “If you put a little lipstick on/Learn to tell jokes in between your songs/Soften your look, toughen your act.” But you can tell from Amelia White’s delivery that she isn’t going to take shit like that too seriously. “Free Advice” was co-written by John Hadley and Amelia White. That’s followed by “Said It Like A King,” a strong and effective song co-written by Lorne Entress, Lori McKenna and Amelia White. This one is timely, focusing on bullies and assumed power in different realms, among children and also in religion and politics. For me, the lines that really stay with me are these: “I heard my little boy talking about the war the other day/He said, ‘if I had a gun I’d blow ‘em all away’/Just child’s words, you say it don't mean a thing/But he said it like a king.” I am hoping that this year will see some serious gun restriction legislation in this country. This track, by the way, also features some wonderful work on violin.

“Sugar Baby” has a great raw vibe, with a bluesy edge and plenty of attitude. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Sugar baby, this is no joke/Stuck in here with the jailhouse ghost/He’s under my skin, he’s been in my bed/He’s pins and needles in my head.” “Mother Of Mine” has a sweeter vibe, though the lyrics are brutally honest, with lines like “But, Mama, you would never let me be/Anything but what you wished to see” and “They didn’t want to see me when I cried/To take care of myself, I learned to hide.”  One of my personal favorite tracks is “Sinking Sun,” which was co-written by Anne McCue, Rich McCulley and Amelia White. “And you feel like a sinking sun, but you’re not the only one/Wait until tomorrow, wait until tomorrow comes.” Ah yes, a song that reminds us we are not alone, which we need. I love this song’s positive vibe, which is of course aided by the presence of banjo. The album concludes with “Pink Cloud,” which was written by Gwil Owen and Amelia White, and is performed as a duet with Will Kimbrough. This is a delightful, optimistic country song. But actually it is not the final song, for there is a hidden track which begins approximately twenty seconds after “Pink Cloud” ends. It’s called “Supernova.” “The soft touch of your fingers barely leaves a trace/Taste the glory that you get when you fall from grace/Sunshine coming through my window/I found something that I wanted… You.”

CD Track List
  1. Little Cloud Over A Little Rock
  2. Rhythm Of The Rain
  3. Free Advice
  4. Said It Like A King
  5. Sugar Baby
  6. Mother Of Mine
  7. How It Feels
  8. Yuma
  9. Sinking Sun
  10. True Or Not
  11. Let The Wind Blow
  12. Pink Cloud
Rhythm Of The Rain is scheduled to be released on January 25, 2019.

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