Amelia White, “Rhythm of the Rain”
Written in the midst of a European tour that kept her overseas during much of the 2016 U.S. presidential race, “Rhythm of the Rain” — the title track from Amelia White’s newest release — is the songwriter’s attempt to find a moment of zen in an increasingly maddening world. Driving home the song’s central image is the steady pitter-patter of a drum loop, which wouldn’t be out of place on an early Sheryl Crow record.
Amelia White, “Rhythm of the Rain”
January 19, 2019
RHYTHM OF THE RAIN
White Wolf Records
Mmmmmm, Smokey and Sultry Songs of Love, Life and Grief.
Sometimes it’s difficult to put into words why you like a particular singer or band; but with Amelia White her voice tugged at my very heartstrings the first time I heard it 5 or 6 years ago; and the stories she tells and the way she sings them makes me go weak at the knees every time they come out of the office Hi-Fi.
RHYTHM OF THE RAIN is Amelia’s 8th album in nearly twenty years and ( #SpoilerAlert ) is by far her most mature and probably the best I’ve heard.
The intro to opening track Little Cloud Over Little Rock sounds like a cool Indie Alt. Country band is about to kick in; them Amelia’s haunting and slightly smokey voice filters out of the speakers and a whole new aura envelopes the proceedings.
The story is full of intimate detail you’d normally associate with writers like Dylan and Joni or maybe Springsteen; not someone you’ve probably never heard of before. The character in the song has ‘dyed black hair and ear feather rings/she’s gotta put three kids through school/she’s sipping on the sly/to keep her cool’…..see what I mean? And it’s got a cool melody too.
Songs like Sinking Sun and Yuma probably sum up my feelings about Amelia White best; not quite Southern Gothic, but pretty damn close and with a swampy Country feel to them too; sort of as if Bobbie Gentry was singing her saddest songs with Creedence backing her.
There are Love Songs here aplenty; but not the ‘Moon in June’ type; these are dark and mysterious; the type you find later in life……listen to Sugar Baby and Supernova without getting a shiver down your back, and you are a stronger person than I am.
If this is your type of music; and I presume it is if you are still reading this far; you will absolutely love the title track Rhythm of the Rain; and my personal ‘favourite’ song here…….Let The Wind Blow, which closes the proceedings. In theory a simple enough song until you listen a second time, and even more intently the third and fourth times as a gorgeous story unfolds and unravels like a magical fairytale.
While these songs were written long before Amelia went into the studio; but when you realise that this album was written in the four short days between her Mother’s funeral and her own wedding; you will find an extra special spirituality in the way she delivers these beautiful songs.
This is finally being released in the US of A with a brand new cover and the the addition of one new song, Pink Clouds a charming duet with RMHQ favourite Will Kimbrough which, if you’re patient runs out into a rather special treat for Amelia White fans…….
Released UK October 27th 2017
Released US January 25th 2019
January 20, 2019
Riding a wild elevator of emotional highs and lows over a span of four days, as she mourned her mother’s passing and experienced the joy of marrying her partner, East Nashville singer-songwriter Amelia White somehow managed to get through the recording of Rhythm of the Rain. And she’s still dealing with the ugly fallout of the 2016 election and what it means for an openly gay artist residing in the South.
What she refuses to do is sweep these issues, whether personal or political, under a rug, as pliable, flowing folk-rock and richly layered Americana—often buoyed by soft, yet supple, rhythmic propulsion —gently frame White’s poetic protests and evocative storytelling. A dark, immersive spill of liquid tones, “Free Advice” takes dead, sardonic aim at sexism in the music industry, while a reflective “Mother of Mine” is cloaked in swoops of violin as it wrestles with conflicted memories. The spare desert that is “Yuma” mesmerizes, as does a haunting, bluesy “Sugar Baby” that’s sensual and seductive and talks of being “stuck here with a jailhouse ghost.” The imagery she employs is cinematic, and so is the instrumentation, never intruding on White’s meditations as it works on creating lovely backdrops.
Plucking banjo, the slight whinny of slide guitar wrangling and wraiths of lap steel crop up here and there, accentuating a connection to Nashville’s greats that is undeniable. It all seems perfectly arranged, the product of sublime craftsmanship and subtle instincts. Warm and inviting, the easy country-rock drawl and gritty chrome of “Little Cloud Over Little Rock” contains traces of Neil Young’s DNA, while the swaying title track, with its sweet, golden nest of interwoven acoustic and electric guitars, is a rippling lullaby coming to grips with anxiety in the age of Trump. Rhythm of the Rainfights the good fight, standing up to bullies in the earnest, lightly weathered folk-pop sweep of “Said it Like a King” and fighting religious intolerance in a stirring and soulful “How it Feels,” with soaring accompaniment from the Anti-Bigotry Choir. It also has the power to soothe.
No Depression Review
Jan 20, 2019
White, who moved from Boston to East Nashville some 20 years ago, has been integral to making that area's mindset a destination of choice. Even though I just got this album (her seventh) yesterday, I feel compelled to give White a shout-out. Other Nashville luminaries such as Will Kimbrough, Julie Christensen (again), Fats Kaplan, Dave Coleman, Sergio Webb, and Dave Jacques pay their respects as well.
This US release is an expanded version of the 2017 EU album, and finds White in a wistful, bittersweet mood sung with a maple colored voice that makes her lyrics more poignant, and the songs linger on. For a more thorough take on the record read what my buddy Chris Griffy has to say. He and his wife are on a cruise this week, so he won't mind. ( AMOS PERRINE)
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