Amelia White


Review: Amelia White Gets Personal With Introspective 'Rhythm of the Rain'

Concert Hopper Review

Jan 7, 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

East Nashville has a reputation as an incubator for quirky artists and left-of-center Americana artists for a reason. While gentrification and rising rents have diluted the reality of that in recent years, the sheer number of roots musicians spawned by that particular musical incubator can't be denied. Since the early 2000s, Amelia White has been a vital part of that scene, becoming a regular at the now defunct Family Wash and notching opening slots for the likes of John Prine, Brandy Clark, and Asleep at the Wheel. With her newest album Rhythm of the Rain, her seventh releasing Jan. 25, White reflects on an increasingly divided nation, as well as her own recent personal losses and gains.

The results, and resultant fallout, of the 2016 elections have been a popular subject for roots musicians in the last year, but White finds a new perspective via tour routing, which took her through the UK during the 2016 election season and allowed her to see the shock and fallout through the eyes of the world community. The result is the album's title track, a blues-guitar driven drawl that begins with a spoken “don't think too much, people” before unwinding the story of a person who find herself using a rainy British day for some self-reflection on a home she no longer recognizes.

More cutting is the album's highlight “Free Advice.” As a woman trying to make it in Nashville for 20 years, Amelia White knows a thing or two about the kind of “free advice” you get from Music City's mostly male label machine. The resulting song is the most cutting indictment of the record industry since Tom Petty's “Joe” from The Last DJ. White's drawl is perfect for lines like “find something cheap that looks good on you. A low cut blouse, a miniskirt. You'll look taller in heels that hurt” and “soften your look and toughen your act.” The blatantly sexualized nature of the advice she is given lends some extra menace to the line “don't make me say this twice. There's no such thing as free advice.”

Another standout song is “Mother of Mine.” After losing her mother, White chose not to write the typical tribute but instead to ruminate on the true relationship between a mother who “always wanted a classic little girl” and the openly lesbian tomboy who chafed against being “your dress-up dolly.” That setup could have led to a needlessly angry song but White's songwriting skill perfectly captures the complicated nest of emotions that are the truth of any familial bond. The division is there, hanging unspoken in the air above her mother's death bed, but there's also undeniable affection in White's voice when she croons “Mama, we ran out of time. I held your hand as your spirit crossed the sky.”

Elsewhere on Rhythm of the Rain, White discusses another life change, her marriage to her partner. The result is “How It Feels”, which mixes the joy of that moment with the evangelical bigotry the two faced along the way. Early in the song, White sings “Jesus died for all, gave his precious blood, but not for me”, echoing the hateful signs and slogans she encounters (along with giving a nod to Patti Smith's own reactionary line from “Gloria”), but finishes the song comfortable at home with her love, immune to the hatred from outside, and reclaiming her own happiness with the line “We've come to believe, Jesus died for all, gave his precious blood. This is how it feels, like coming home.”

After 20 years in the business, Rhythm of the Rain isn't going to be the album that makes Amelia White a mainstream country star. There are too many strong opinions, too many controversial takes, and too much lyrical nuance for radio. But one gets the sense that White is just fine with that. Every choice White makes on this album is in service of the song, the entire song, no matter into what uncomfortable territory it might take her. And, while that may never make her rich, it further cements her legacy as an East Nashville treasure worth following down any rabbit trail she chooses to explore. The journey is more than the destination, and Rhythm of the Rain plays like a leisurely trip with an old friend.

If you'd like to catch Amelia White live, she will be taking to the road in support of Rhythm of the Rain in the United States and Canada before trekking across the pond to the UK. Here are the dates:
Jan. 12- The Listening Room- Mobile, AL
Jan. 23- Album Release Show, Club Passim- Cambridge, MA
Feb. 12- Folk Alliance- Montreal, Canada
Feb. 28- Dyson House- Baton Rouge, LA
Mar. 6- Eastlake Concert Series- Columbia, MO
Mar. 7- The Americana Series at Haymarket Brewery- Chicago, IL
Mar. 10- Byron's- Pomeroy, IA
Mar. 11- Picks Gallery- Osage Beach, MO
Mar. 13- Blue Door- Oklahoma City, OK

Amelia White in Guitar Girl Magazine

By GGM Staff - November 30, 2018

Amelia White navigates personal and political loss on new album ‘Rhythm of the Rain’.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If there were an East Nashville Music Hall of Fame, Amelia White would already be in it. The now-famous scene was in its formative days when White arrived from Boston in the early 2000s and became a fixture at Family Wash. She’s been a leading light in America’s most musical zip code ever since, even as she’s developed a reputation in the rest of the U.S. and Europe as a first-rate songwriter. She helped define and refine the core folk-rock sound of Americana, yet her band’s energetic pulse never outshines her carefully wrought lyrics. She’s a poet who’s been compared to more famous songwriters for years; now, it would be more appropriate to use her as a benchmark.

White’s seventh album, Rhythm of the Raindue out January 25, 2019, is a volume of ruminations and short stories written largely during a tour in the U.K. in 2016. There, at a distance and with a sense of helplessness, she watched America’s political system and her values attacked from within. Then the project was recorded by East Nashville sonic maestro Dave Coleman (The Coal Men) in an emotionally wrenching four days between White losing her mother and marrying her partner. Roots music is a journal of love and loss, and Rhythm of the Rain couldn’t be a more potent dispatch. 

“As a songwriter, I feel obliged to tell the stories that are coming through in the air to me in my world whether it’s personal or political or both. That can be hard,” White says. “The antenna is always on. Man, you’ve got to feel a lot. It’s a heavy load sometimes.”

She’s shared shows with the likes of Brandy Clark, Asleep at the Wheel, John Prine, and Justin Townes Earle, as well as performed for a handful of folks in unknown cafes. “There was a point in my career where I realized you have to go out and knock on doors with your songs,” she allows. “They need to be sung for people and that means a relentless tour schedule. If I were a trucker I’d be rich.”

The 12-song collection opens with a sunny snap of drums and a slurry steel-like guitar figure, in keeping with the electric punch that’s always been a key part of White’s sound. Then “Little Cloud Over Little Rock” zooms in on a scene in a bar in Middle America, where White lets telling details evoke a situation full of mixed emotions, of resignation and perseverance. White has always gleaned song inspiration through talking with people in the cities she visits. “I find that if I truly open up on stage, people come and want to tell me about the skeletons in their closet.”

The artist balances bitterness and grace in the farewell song “Mother of Mine.” She says that after her mother’s passing, “I wrote a letter to her — a really honest letter, and of course a song came about.”

“She wanted me to be ‘a classic little girl’ and that’s not what she got. I could never say these words to her face, and now she’ll hate me from the grave,” White adds with a wistful laugh.

In a timely tune, White gives a sexist music industry the back of her hand in “Free Advice,” a song that came about after repeated DJs asked her about her age, “Would you ask Bob Dylan that?” In “Said It Like a King” (written with Lori McKenna) personal, religious and political bullies are exposed. “True or Not” (written post Women’s March on Washington) transmutes the despair of the worlds unfairness into a “peaceful battle cry.”

Though she lives in one of those famous blue islands in a red state, local evangelical bigotry was enough to prompt “How It Feels” as a celebration and affirmation of her marriage. She notes, “It’s tough growing up gay in the South — in the past year it feels like they are trying to shove us back in the closet.”

The title track has its own distinct restraint, musically and emotionally. “Rhythm of the Rain” is most distinctly set in London and most intimately tied to the slipping away feeling of the November 2016 shock. Instead of defiance, here, she tries self-comfort, curling up, breathing and tuning out a storm of hate with the white noise of a downpour.

Amelia White doesn’t chase opportunities. She chases songs and gives her entire focus to the listeners and fans who show up, year after year, to commune with her music.

Her songs and co-writes have been recorded by some of the great names of Americana music: Anne McCue, Julie Christensen, Wild Ponies, and Tony Furtado.

“When faced with whether to go out in Nashville and schmooze, or take a walk and start a song in my head I’d always choose the SONG,” she says. “And sometimes I feel that I pay for that.”

Yet we listeners are the ones getting something of value.

Fallout Magazine on Amelia White

Beneath it all Amelia White is a great story teller. Her songs are vivid portraits painted in broad strokes about a myriad of things...from her parents to her lost loves to traveling the continent and meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. Kind of like Anthony Bourdain with a guitar instead of food." - William Hurley, FALLOUT SHELTER 

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