Memphis singer-songwriter and upright bass player Amy LaVere is one of those wonderfully unique artists that was almost lost to me beneath the massive waves of music I’ve been hit by in recent years. I missed her at Mountain Stage last year, never got around to listening to her album, and had all but forgotten about her since then. But her dazzling performance on PBS’ Sun Studios series finally prompted me to check out her music, and what a wonder she turned out to be.
they fought through the morning & all of the day
she’d have to kill him to get him to stay
killing him didn’t make the love go away
The smooth studio production of Amy LaVere’s sophomore album Anchors & Anvils doesn’t quite capture the excitement of the live Sun Studios set, but it’s still a great album.
The lilting charm of Amy’s voice is certainly a big draw. Her beautiful inflections and unusual vocal phrasing remind me of both Billie Holiday and Emiliana Torrini. In addition to crooning with that fantastic voice of hers, Amy plays upright bass accompanied by drummer Paul Taylor and guitarist Steve Selvidge.
What really stands out about her music is the way she layers that gently curious cadence with instrumentation influenced equally by classic country and punk-rock. This terrifically twisted genre blend is a result of the traditional country music Amy heard as a child and the punk beginnings of her own musical career in the band Last Minute.
Most of the arrangements on Anchors & Anvils – such as “Time is a Train” and “Pointless Drinking” – lean more toward the country side of things, resting somewhere between bluegrass and Appalachian folk.
It’s the songs that veer from the traditional path that truly set Amy apart from everyone else. The stand outs tracks are the jazzy, sweetly venomous murder ballad “Killing Him,” the melancholy waltz “Overcome,” and especially the rhythmic, discontented housewife anthem “Washing Machine.”
the chains on the front porch swing
were creaking like steps in the dark
one day soon this is all gonna end
Amy’s new EP Died of Love finds her taking an even more interesting, slightly harder direction with her music. I hope she will continue this experimentation with psychedelic folk-rock on future albums. The EP includes a selection of traditional songs like “Railroad Boy (Died of Love)” and a cover Michelle Shocked’s “If Love was a Train.” There’s also a new, rocked up “reloaded” version of “Washing Machine.”
Archer Records has generously granted me permission to share both versions of “Washing Machine.” The first is the original from Anchors & Anvils and the second is the new rock version from Died of Love. If you like either track, I highly recommend purchasing both albums.
Amy LaVere – Washing Machine (mp3 expired)*
Amy LaVere – Washing Machine (Reloaded) (mp3 expired)*
*mp3s provided by & posted w/ permission of Archer Records for a limited time
Amy LaVere – Killing Him (Sun Studios) (YouTube Video)
Buy Anchors & Anvils @ Amazon
Buy Died of Love @ Amazon
Amy LaVere Official Site
Amy LaVere MySpace