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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amy Ray: Didn't It Feel Kinder

I'm listening to Amy Ray's new album Didn't It Feel Kinder and it's good, ... it's uneven, as some of her stuff is. So I'm disappointed but also so happy because when she's good, she's excellent. And when she's not good, she's just o.k. and that's still pretty good in my book. I'm a die hard fan. I'm one of those that can sing all the songs, that can tell you all the details of the album covers, all the liner notes, all the points along my life where the songs meant what and why and how. It's not something I'm particularly proud of, I mean, I don't consider The Indigo Girls and Amy's solo projects to be the cutting edge of great music by any stretch but then again, it's not bad stuff either. Like most folk-rock out there, it's good cause it's good to me. It's good in my mind, I like the way it sounds, I like what it evokes in my memory and it's good to me in that it does good things to me. It makes me feel good about my life, it causes me to remember the good things in my life, the tough shit I've got through, the great times I've had with friends and lovers, that music has been there for all of it. So this new album is just another ring on a finger on a hand that travels with me. And eventually I'll have listened to it so many times that I won't recognize the songs that I think aren't so good at first hearing. But for now, track two,"She's got to be" is excellent.
Well that paragraph was written about a month and a half ago. It sat in my blogger draft box all this time while I kept on listening, just waiting for the right time to be posted, to be ready. And yes, I've forgotten which tracks are uneven, which aren't so good at first hearing. But "She's got to be" is still the BEST ONE, oh my god, it's good. You want Amy to sing those high notes. You want to make Amy sing those high notes just for you. Oh god if only she sang those just for you. Ok, I lie, it's not her singing you want. Making those sounds yes, in your ear, in your bed, in with you, hmmm yes. Amy doesn't sing those high notes very often you see.

Now, the music. "Birds of a Feather" starts on a rather sour note, a typical Amy note in fact, and if you've not heard a lot of her music it's rather jarring to have an album open with a song that seems to be so down, so despondent, so un-melodic in fact. But if you listen to it four or five times it shines and especially that last chorus will make you smile. It's the perfect set up for the star track of the project, "She's got to be" (did I mention yet that it's the BEST ONE?).

Amy's in love. We love Amy when she's in love. Hell, we love Amy when she's heartbroken, when she's bitterly disappointed, when she's mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, and when she's sobbing like a baby because somebody took her last cigarette. But we really love Amy when she's in love. Amy in love is like a momma dog protecting her pups, like a eagle bringing fresh meat home to the nest, like pelican plucking her own breast to feed her chicks her own blood if need be (even tho that's indeed a myth). She's noble, regal, beautiful and sexy. And so is this song. Listen to it, buy it, soak up the love folks.

The falsetto is gorgeous and tender next to the more typical sounds of the chorus, the background vocals are smooth and angelic and the easy pop sounds of the guitars make this song a total hit.

"Cold Shoulder," "Who Sold the Gun," "SLC Radio," "Rabbit Foot" all sound like other songs from Amy's solo efforts, all follow formulas from other albums. But they're formulas we like. I don't mind one bit that "SLC" is the same genre as "Let It Ring" lyrically, or that "Cold Shoulder" fills the space of "Driver Education" or "Rural Faggot." "Who Sold The Gun" might be my least favorite song from the album but I guarantee you I'll love it live. Those yearning lines are hard to capture on a recording but are so damn sexy to hear in concert. And yes, it's reminencient of "Covered For You." Of course, "Rabbit Foot" is so much like "Rodeo" and that's just fine with me. I love those bittersweet songs.

Some are harder to match but just feel like they fit... "Out On The Farm" is a great song, so much like one that would go on an Indigo Girls album but I'm glad Amy saved it for this one, it's a song that deserves a solo vocal, that showcases her tone, her sound and the background vocals once again do that justice in a way that Emily Saliers accompanient changes things. There's a reason why artists do solo work when they're well known as being part of a duo.

"Bus Bus," (we'll overlook the verb conversate here) just whispers The Clash to me. Is it because I know of Amy's love for that band? Or is there something musically of it there? Readers, tell me! She proves she's not stuck in a 1990s musical style, though I doubt we'll see a Amy Ray hip hop catalogue any time soon.

All in all, Didn't It Feel Kinder is a new/old sound for Amy. How's that for a review!? New in that it's a real step away from her jangly, punk, rockabilly inspired tunes of Prom and Stag. This is a polished, much more produced, Indigo Girls sounding work, many tracks treading the line between solo and duo work. And old, in that the formulas remain the same, the lyrics revisit many themes that are constant in her music (thankfully) and with each effort Amy gives us quality, thoughful, and evocative art.

She's Got To Be mp3 Amy Ray Didn't It Feel Kinder
Bus Bus mp3 Amy Ray Didn't It Feel Kinder
buy it!


liz said...

Actually, she doesn't say "conversate me" - I thought that, too. She is saying "come and save me." Too bad, too, because I thought "conversate me" was much cooler somehow.

Thanks for the review, though! It's really great to hear what other people think about a musician that I love so much!

a Tart said...

Ah liz, yes you're right. You've saved me from an embarrassing grouping of Amy with the New Kids on the Block release, whew! A thousand thanks! xoxo