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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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November 2017

JW Roy & The Royal Family
80 pts.
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