I am new to Amelia White. A quick online search revealed that she is a 'lifer' and this is her eighth album. It always amazes me when I discover such a voluminous back catalogue. I dipped into the other albums (available on iTunes) and they all contain top notch songwriting. I have seen Amelia described as a writer-songsinger and that seems an apt description. Amelia is a fine singer, with a voice that can can sound like Gretchen Peters, Karen Carpenter or Lucinda Williams at times, however she is a songwriter first and foremost.
Amelia is from Virginia. She started out in Boston, spent time in Seattle and has now been based in, where else, Nashville for a long time. The inspiration for her songs clearly comes from travelling and observing. The beauty is in the details and I could fill this review with examples of her descriptions that can paint a picture in a few words ('It’s another round for the old man humming to George Jones, his friends are coming to drink their unemployment down on Friday night, American small town'). This is a great skill.
The tone is upbeat, but there are disturbances bubbling right underneath the surface. Amelia just describes, without accusing or complaining. This leaves the listener free to draw their own conclusions. The overall air is one of acceptance. Things are as they are.
The opening track, 'Little Cloud Over Little Rock' was inspired by a photograph. Amelia wrote about it on her Facebook page, and this really illustrates the entire album:
"The idea of the tune to me (because it's a song therefore, you can have your own idea of it) is that my life takes me all over smalltown America where I witness people.. all kinds of people. Red state people, blue state people... they may have their differences but in the end they laugh, they work, they drink, and they wish they had more money, or a better job. The song really is a reminder to me to not take what I see for granted. Life is short, beautiful, through the struggles we find some kind of mutual comfort, rubbing elbows at a bar, a show, or a church. The clouds blow by, and the sky gets blue again, it's the endless cycle.”
'Yuma' is about someone who is leaving, but again the power is in the images of the scene Yuma leaves behind: 'One last tune on the record player, something 'bout the truth from another soothsayer, something 'bout life being just a cruel joke, have another drink, light another smoke. And the band plays on all night long, what was that song? All the pretty women dance and sing along'. This track brought Ryan Bingham's 'Sunrise' to my mind; a song I absolutely love.
'Said It Like A King' is a re-recording of a track that appeared on a previous album ('Motorcycle Dreams'). It is a terrific song, that deserves to be heard widely. Where the previous version featured an Edge-style guitar, this time the song has a shuffled rhythm, slide guitar and violin. There is an air of suspense as the song deals with bullying and deceit.
The title track starts with the spoken words 'Don't think too much people'. Sound advice in today's world. Amelia wrote this song last year whilst staying in her promoter's attic in York during a UK tour. She was reading the news from back home and began to write, observing from a distance. Some of the songs are co-writes, with amongst others Grammy Award winner Lori McKenna, with Northern Ireland native Ben Glover (a UK Americana Award winner) and with England's own Worry Dolls.
The overall vibe is summer-y and lazy. And that brings me to the sound. If I drove this would be music to drive to. It sounds gorgeous. The album is produced by David Coleman. I do not recognize the names of the other musicians credited, but no doubt they are top class session folk. Amazingly the record was recorded in four days, in between the singer burying her mother and getting married herself.
Amelia is headed this way. After a previous tour she said, “UK has been a fantastic experience. I’ve met so many great people who actually have the attention span to listen to a whole night of original tunes...” (nodepression 2012). We sure do. Her UK tour starts at the Camden Green Note on 13 November.