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AMBER CROSS —SAVAGE ON THE DOWNHILL (Self-released)

ALBUM OF THE MONTH 

 www.ambercrossmusic.com

With Savage On The Downhill produced by esteemed musician (guitar, harmonica) singer-songwriter Ray Bonneville Amber Cross’ music could not be in better hands. She may not be the biggest act, physically, but is one of the most dynamic forces of her field. The field in question being that of singer-songwriter (acoustic based).  

 

Born and raised over in New England her first taste of singing was at the church. Where her father was a minister. Now raising a family of her own out in California she embraces a bunch of nuances and does it with authoritative edge. Her lyrics and voice dig deep into one’s soul. The word compromise doesn’t figure in her musical vocabulary. Such is the honesty, grit and determination that accompanies it! Cross is cut from a special cloth. Tough and resolute as a knotty pine she performs a form of the folk country past masters of the craft would be proud to be associated with. Present day talent Tim O’Brien (fiddle), Gurf Morlix (bass, electric, baritone guitar) and Bonneville (harmonica, electric, acoustic guitar) coupled with sessionmen Rick Richards (drums), David Carroll (bass), Mike Hardwick (pedal steel) and Chris Searle (drums) give steadfast support to Cross’ deeply etched lyrics. No better example of her moving, gritty approach is “Savage On The Downhill”. It is here she speaks of understanding of nature, and it isn’t the only occasion the plucky singer-songwriter puts to use her knowledge as she embraces the natural surroundings of rural California to go with her stories of love and family.  

 

All but three songs are solo efforts. Those on which she calls on others you have two co-writers with Bonneville. She was put in touch with him by another earthy, no punches pulled country singer-songwriter Chuck Hawthorne. He also gets to lend some impressive harmony vocals on “Eagle & Blue”. As for Bonneville he co-wrote rhythmic ode “Tracey Joe” and the title-track “Savage On The Downhill”, and solo effort “Lone Freighter’s Wail”. All are stirring tracks. Such is the steely passion of her singing the listener may well feel the need to pause between songs (due to the intensity of Cross' music). She gets inside one’s heart as she strips the music, and lyrics down to the bone. and they don’t come any finer than the pedal steel guitar warmed “Echoes”. While she goes one further on stripping down the instrumental side on plaintive ode “Trinity Gold Mine”, and with O’Brien’s fiddle colouring her lyrics and powerful vocals “Storms of Scarcity” produces a yearning feel strong enough to bend steel. 

 

“One Last Look” is in many ways, less intense to give both artist and listener a break from the more muscular fare. Nice it is too. Otherwise from the opening gem “Pack of Lies” (loaded in a powerhouse rhythm it well and truly opens the flood gates to one’s heart and soul) to the lonesome “Lone Freighter’s Wail” there’s no let up. If anyone is looking for an artist to bring over for a festival or tour dates Cross is loaded in talent; she is one of those honest performers to transfix an audience with her music. Going back to the opening track it displays incredible strength, all round. Not least comes in the form of the rhythmic work of drummer supreme Richards and Carroll (bass) and pitch perfect guitar (electric and acoustic) of Bonneville who did gain one concession from Cross, he got her to travel down to Austin, Texas to record the album. I hope we don't have too long a wait, before she returns to the Lonestar State to repeat to record another ground moving set of work.   

 

                                                            Maurice Hope               

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
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