Amelia White: Home Sweet Hotel - American Songwriter
Despite the consistent quality of her work, it’s hard to imagine Amelia White topping Home Sweet Hotel.
Home Sweet Hotel
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
East Nashville — by way of Boston and Seattle — singer-songwriter Amelia White has no shortage of road miles on her odometer over the past 15 years. She’s done it the hard way, releasing six previous albums on a variety of indie imprints and hitting the endless highway, winning over audiences one club, bar or opening slot at a time. She has landed a handful of tracks on TV shows and gotten uniformly positive reviews but the gold ring has so far eluded her. That may change with Home Sweet Hotel.
While there is no such thing as a bad or substandard Amelia White release, it’s clear she has gradually honed her songwriting and, especially, her vocal skills. But White has gradually refined her voice to take elements of Marianne Faithfull’s edgy growl, Lucinda Williams’ southern drawl and Sam Phillips’ dark, jazz tinged croon and combine them into something instantly recognizable. Likewise, her songwriting has become tighter with arrangements that fuse country, folk, pop and even some blues for a sumptuous American gumbo that’s often similar to a mashup of Rosanne Cash and Tom Petty at his most rustic. It also helps having drummer/producer Marco Giovino (Buddy Miller) to tweak these songs into fighting shape.
The ethereal strum of “Rainbow Over The East Side” with its yearning vocal and crying fiddle and the darker, earthy love song “Right Back to My Arms” display the maturity and subtlety of White’s singing, while the backing keeps the sound edgy yet commercial enough for more mainstream tastes. Selections like the subdued blues rock title track and the reflective Byrds-styled “Leaving in My Blood” reveal the traveling that has been a staple of White’s life and is implied by the album’s title. The funky “Dogs Bark” pushes boundaries utilizing a drum loop to drive its swampy groove. The easily melodic “Love Cures” seems to have the right balance to be the hit that has so far eluded White.
Despite the consistent quality of her work—2006’s Black Doves remains a high water mark — it’s hard to imagine Amelia White topping Home Sweet Hotel, an album that, if it connects with a wider audience, should provide a respite from the love/hate relationship she has with the road that has been her second home.
By Hal Horowitz