Album Reviews

Amy Black

Memphis

Artist:     Amy Black

Album:     Memphis

Label:     Reuben

Release Date:     06.02.2017

85

Not long after I met Amy Black a couple of years ago, she had just recently left a solid corporate gig behind to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter, and she told me that her favorite singer was Mavis Staples. Black began as an Americana artist favoring country tunes, but I was most initially drawn to the bluesy aspects of her voice. Given that her family had roots in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (her birth place as well), Black moved from Boston to Nashville and began to more deeply explore her southern roots. She took a rather risky leap, cutting 2015’s The Muscle Shoals Sessions with Spooner Oldham and a group of local and Nashville-based musicians. With a subsequent tour, she stamped her career as a soul singer going forward. Now, in a similar vein as Dusty Springfield and Shelby Lynne, it only seems natural that Black would mine that Memphis sound.

Black went right to authentic support enlisting Bo Keys leader Scott Bomar, who produced and engineered the album at his home studio,in old-school, analog style. It was later mixed to tape at Memphis’ famed Ardent Studios. Bomar called upon the Hi Records’ drummer Howard Grimes, keyboardist Charles Hodges and his brother bassist Leroy “Flick” Hodges, along with Stax guitarist Bobby Manuel. Bo-Keys trumpeter Marc Franklin (a former Bobby Bland sideman) handled horn and string arrangements.

Amy penned or co-penned seven originals of the ten selections here, but her tunes blend in so nicely with covers from Otis Clay and Bobby “Blue” Bland that the average listener might mistake them for vintage Memphis tunes. This is especially true for “Without You,” “We Got a Good Thing,” and “Let the Light In.” She and her friend Karen Leipziger co-wrote an Ann Peebles tribute, “What Makes a Man?” and she is referring to herself on the album single, “The Blackest Cloud.” Covers include Clay’s “If I Could Reach Out (and Help Somebody)” and Bland’s “Further on Up the Road.”

Comparing Muscle Shoals to Memphis, Black says, “It’s a little bit dirtier, more from your gut. I am so drawn to that feel and sound. I didn’t know that I could sing this music and now it’s what I do.” Amy will be touring with the Memphis Music Revue. We have a blue-eyed soul singer who is now following in the footsteps of her original idol, Mavis Staples, and new ones like Ann Peebles and O.V. Wright.

—Jim Hynes

 

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