AMELIA WHITE BRINGS SHARP HONESTY, POLITICAL ANGST, CATHARTIC TRIUMPH ON “RHYTHM OF THE RAIN” (ALBUM REVIEW)
January 24, 2019
Amelia White is one of those Americana artists revered in her home town of East Nashville and certainly in the UK, where a previous version of this album, Rhythm of the Rain, was released last year. This one has four different songs, and a few different session players. Her songs are not for the feint of heart. There are few songwriters who are more honest and direct, but Amelia White is careful too. Her lyrics try to find a balance between bitterness and grace in their provocation.
This is White’s seventh album, a collection of thoughts and stories written mostly while on tour in the U.K. in 2016. She watched the U.S. election from a distance, realizing that her values, political and sexual, would be severely undermined. She had the material, then hunkered down with East Nashville producer and guitarist Dave Coleman (The Coal Men) and laid down these tracks in an emotionally wrought four day between losing her mother and marrying her partner. It may simply be expressed as love and loss, but there are so many angles and perspectives here that it’s difficult to digest it in one listen. Nonetheless, the songcraft is top notch, whether writing alone or with talented co-writers like Lori McKenna, Ben Glover, Gwil Owens, John Hadley, and Anne McCue. You can access most of these lyrics when visiting www.ameliawhite.com although some of the titles belong to the U.K. version, not this one.
White has long favored a guitar-driven, electric, rather classic American sound and has some its best players behind this effort, listed as the Blue Souvenirs. in addition to Coleman on guitars and keys, , Sergio Webb joins on guitars and banjo. Dave Jacques and Parker Hawkins share bass duties and Megan Jane (Carchman) drums. Guests include Justin Amaral (drums), Eamon McLoughlin (violin), Fats Kaplan (violin, pedal steel), Will Kimbrough (guitar, dobro), with Julie Christensen, Ingrid Graudins and the Anti-Bigotry Choir adding vocals.
She opens with the self-penned “Little Cloud Over Little Rock,” wherein she essentially drops into a conversation in a bar in Middle America stirring up emotions that run from resignation to perseverance. The title track is unmistakably set in London, as White uses the rain as metaphor for white noise to shield her from the U.S Election result and its ramifications. She quickly addresses a pet peeve, sexism, in “Free Advice” (written with John Hadley). The song was prompted by DJs repeatedly asking her about her age, with the key lyric, “Would you ask Bob Dylan that?” She stays in this vein, exposing religious and political bullies in “Said It Like a King” (written with Lori McKenna). Here’s an excerpt – : “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.” In “True or Not” (also with Hadley), she summons up a peaceful battle cry, stimulated by the Women’s March on Washington.
The centerpiece of sorts, and one that had to be especially difficult to write is the ode to her late mother in “Mother of Mine.” She’ll openly discuss her emotions as she sets up this son gin live performance with words like these, “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.”
Personal triumph and a celebratory mood imbues “How It Feels,” about her marriage and accented by the many voices of the Anti-Bigotry Choir. This celebration of marriage quickly turns to a celebration of life as she and co-writer Ben Glover pay tribute in “Yuma.” These brief uplifting moments fade into the resignation of “Sinking Sun” (written with Anne McCue), carried in part by Webb’s pulsating banjo and “Let the Wind Blow” (written with Worry Dolls) that’s colored by McLoughlin’s haunting violin.
”Pink Cloud” presents a more countrified sound, a duet with Will Kimbrough as his dobro blends with Kaplan’s pedal steel in another offering of some hopeful thoughts, silver linings. She’s not done. There’s a hidden track “Supernova” (written with Tony Kerr) that’s a blissful affirmation of love – “Hold tight the blinding of the afterglow/sweet dreams baby take me there wherever you go…/Sun shine coming thru my window/I’ve found something that I wanted…. You”
We have weaved through a myriad of Amelia White’s emotions, and she then throws us a nice surprise. That’s the beauty of White’s songwriting, expertly crafted