Sunday, 30 July 2017

Amber Cross - Savage On The Downhill, album review

Front Porch Welcome

In the ‘About’ details on Amber Cross’ website there is a phrase that was interesting for a number of reasons, and here it is: Her old-time voice is clear and captivating, like a strong muscle, fringed in lace.

Her voice is definitely interesting, but the term ‘old-time’ seems itself too frail and elderly to capture its distinctive essence. I do hear the roots of early Dolly and Tammy, but I also hear Buffy St Marie sans warble, and at one point – I am not out of my mind – there was Janis but not the raucous Joplin, just a lilt that is there is you listen carefully, to both.

So I’m agreeing it is ‘clear and captivating’ but then again I am concerned about the mixed metaphor of ‘muscle/lace’. I don’t recognise either, the latter especially suggesting a finesse and/or delicacy that is inappropriate. And ‘strong muscle’? That’s precisely a suggestive roar she doesn’t use.

Anyway, I’m warmed up now. Nothing like a little fight. And as this reference is on her site, I don’t want to knock down any accolade and one that is obviously approved because Amber Cross and this album are definitely distinctive. For me it is the perfect shine of its simplicity: the Country tone intoned in those named precursors and straightforward songs simply played and presented. It is pure folk in this respect. Front porch and accompanied by the occasional guest player who just happens by, or rather [I have to break the prosaic picture a little] the clear talents of producer Ray Bonneville and players Gurf Morlix and the wonderful Tim O’Brien. And let’s be clear, these guys aren’t actually just passing – they are there for a reason.

Front porch voice, filling the night with clarity. That’d be my description of this unadorned excellence. And here’s the poetry of the chorus in the album’s title song:

With my savage on the downhill so not to break my fall
I move along the cattle trail across the canyon wall
I’m a hawk eye on a sparrow, I’m onto your game
I know which way the wind will blow before it begins to change

An album of superb songs, Bonneville's Lone Freighter's Wail is beautifully done.

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