Occasionally I find my musical tastes more than a little ironic. For instance, I have always been a fan of folk music. And in recent years I’ve broadened that to include some Americana and Bluegrass in the mix. But I’ve never been a fan of country music. Whether it’s the grating steel guitars or the oft-repeated and stereotypical themes of “lost my truck/dog/girl,” I can’t say. But it’s always been a sticking point in my head.
That said, I have been very amused by how close to country I’m getting with some Americana. I wonder why that is? Anyway, listening to Amy Black’s album “One Time” due out March 29th, I was reminded of this. Many of the tunes are on that mythical Country border, but I found them both entertaining and in some cases even beautiful. Am I finally crossing the line and enjoying Country music? Only time will tell.
One Time is Black’s sophomore effort, after Amy Black & the Red Clay Rascals back in 2009. Where that first album was mostly covers along with two originals, One Time features nine originals. Each song has a classic Americana feel, but mixes in a bit of blues and country influence for good measure. Black’s voice through it all has a genuine heartfelt folksy feel and storytelling style, all backed up by a great band. If this is country-esque, then I’m on board to hear more from Black and the Red Clay Rascals going forward, genre-be-damned.
As you might guess, the songs I liked the most are typically along the Americana/Bluegrass side of the spectrum. “Run Johnny” is my favorite, telling the story of a man on the run. Intermixed with the story is a great fiddle, steel guitar, and banjo keeping the song moving along is Black’s voice singing “You better run, run Johnny / Lawman’s on his way / Better get outta Alabamy / ‘fore the break of day…” Black is haunting as she tells the man he needs to get on his way after killing his woman. And the guitar solo in the middle of the song sounds great.
“One Time,” the title song, seems to be a straight up blues song with some Bluegrass style. “Look him in the eyes / Say “Baby, baby this bird’s gotta fly” – it’s time for the woman to take control of her life and walk away from a man who’s no good for her. It sounds just like a woman talking to one of her girlfriends in a bar. Again, it’s the story that drives the song and it feels genuine. It’s tough to discount advice such as “You only live one time… get on with your life.”
And “Words Fail You” is Country through and through, but somehow the simple arrangement and heartfelt delivery makes it beautiful. The song, originally by Kris Delmhorst, tells the story about a relationship that a pair wants to work, but doesn’t know how. “And I know words fail you / … Well baby sometimes they fail me too.” It’s the things not said that fill the room. “Now this Toyota is getting crowded with all the things that no one’s saying / and if I opened up my mouth now I think I would be praying.” The slow, romantic song feels like it’s about a real couple. And Black sells it with every note.
Based in Boston, Black wants to make music full time and I think she’ll make it work. I’d be surprised if I didn’t hear she was up for any number of awards come award show season. Her expressive voice, great band, and passion will take her straight to the ears and hearts of many fans that won’t let her be forgotten. Be sure to check out One Time from Amy Black when at her website – AmyBlack.com. If you like Americana and Country, there’s a lot to love here.
p.s. Be sure to pick up Amy Black’s music at her website!