JOURNEY TO MEMPHIS
The Soul of America Smoulders and Burns Brightly.
It’s odd how we eventually stumble on the music we love, isn’t it? In the case of singer Amy Black from Nashville TN she left a successful career in marketing to pursue her ‘dream’ singing songs. As you’d expect she worked the local circuit, gradually evolving from straight up Country through the Americana movement until she saw Mavis Staples supporting Bonnie Raitt one night and something ‘clicked.’
Subsequently she has become obsessed with Soul and R&B, studying it from the Roots upwards, culminating with her last album The Muscle Shoals Sessions, which has been something of a success; so much so (JOURNEY TO) MEMPHIS follows a similar route with 7 classy original songs and 3 extremely well chosen covers.
From the first snatches of the Hammond organ and brass groove on opening track It’s Hard To Love an Angry Man, I had a feeling I was going to like this album; and when Amy Black’s stylish voice slides in to the mix I was completely smitten.
This is immediately followed by The Blackest Cloud; a really punchy song that strolls along like the strong woman who isn’t going to show how hurt she is, in the lyrics. Already I’m thinking ‘Dusty in Memphis’ but without the overbearing strings and orchestra.
The first cover song comes in at #4, a sweet and emotional take on Otis Clay’s If I Could Reach Out (and love somebody) and just the sort of Stax or more likely Atlantic Soul song that would have closed the evening at our Youth Centre back in the early 1970’s. Mmmm mmm and mmmm!
That’s exactly where Amy Black sits in my mind; she has a wonderfully rich and expressive voice and alongside producer Scott Bomar they have recreated that timeless sound which sounds just as cool on Gold Radio as it will on the hipster Internet stations.
The deceptively gentle on the ear Nineteen could easily be an anti-Vietnam love song sung by Nina or Aretha; but it’s not, these razor sharp lyrics are by Amy herself and are about a young man who chose to ‘do the right thing’ and fight for his country in Afghanistan, Syria or wherever. Beautiful and sad in equal measures and bares repeated listening.
Thankfully this followed by a sassy, late night hip-swaying take on Further on Up The Road with it’s red hot guitar solos to lighten the mood.
What do I pick for ‘my favourite song’? It would be all to easy to select the BB King inspired I Need Your Love So Bad which closes the record; or perhaps the swaggering slice of steamy Southern Soul that is What Makes a Man?
But after a lot of deliberation I’m going for the deep down gorgeous Let The Light In, which has Gospel overtones but is Soul with a capital ‘S’ boys and girls……Soul from and for the soul.
A week ago I’d not heard of Amy Black; but I’ve just spent a small fortune buying her back catalogue…….and I think you will too.
Released June 2nd 2017