Amy Black: This Is Home

Amy Black
This Is Home
(Reuben Records)
4 out of 5 stars

She might be based in Boston these days, but it was Amy Black’s Southern upbringing that informs the music on her two albums. This is Home is her second and it fulfills the promise of 2011’s One Time debut. Country, torchy blues, swampy rock, folk and a bit of gospel bluegrass in an album closing cover of the traditional “Gospel Ship” combine with Black’s effortlessly emotional singing for a 50 minute, 14 track disc that ends far too quickly.

It doesn’t hurt to record in Nashville and have pros such as Will Kimbrough and Oliver Wood in your studio band along with producer/musician Lex Price at the board. Price’s work with Caitlin Rose, k.d. lang, Kelly Willis and Mindy Smith provides plenty of experience working with strong female vocalists. Not surprisingly, he keeps the spotlight on Black’s voice while maintaining a low boil backup that supports both her singing and sturdy songs. Tunes such as the bluesy lope of “I’m Home” and the Byrds-styled strum of the angry letter to an ex-husband “We Had a Life” mix country and rock with melodies that are instantly memorable and beckon you back for repeated spins to catch the instrumental and lyrical nuances. There are echoes of 1980’s Rosanne Cash in Black’s approach with a touch of Mary Chapin Carpenter and Rodney Crowell, a cover of whose “Still Learning How to Fly” is one of the set’s most moving songs.

Black’s voice can be defiant or somber and even if there may be a few too many ballads that slow the momentum mid disc, gems such as the melancholy broken relationship of “These Walls are Falling Down” and a child talking to her Alzheimer’s afflicted father in “Hello” are beautifully conceived and performed. A few more rockers on the order of “Stronger” would have given this more forward momentum, but there are no weak tracks. One listen and you’ll be convinced that she’s a powerful, authentic, talented and above all soulful new entry in the rootsy singer/songwriter ranks and with any luck this should be the album that introduces her to a wider audience.