Sunday, February 12, 2012

Amy Hart - Congratulations

Ever taste something when you were younger and forever thereafter pursue another taste of it?  Maybe a permanent supply?  Like a certain type of jeans, a handmade ice cream, an award, a state of well being, success?  You had it once.  You want it again.  

And when you find it again you will celebrate your accomplishment.  Well, Amy Hart. Congratulations.  Your ten track album Congratulations is just that.  It is the essence of what you tasted  when, as a kid, you garnered local musical notoriety in your hometown.  Granted.  Your hometown was not exactly backwoods.  Chicago is the big Midwest city of North America.  It is where Blues and Jazz electrified. 

Amy, look, you chose quite a hard life to get another taste.  That first taste opened some big doors. You warmed crowds for Koko Taylor, Junior Wells and James Cotton.  Pretty damn impressive.  But, as Ringo once wrote “If you want to play the blues, you’ve got to pay your dues,”  and now you have.  You left Chicago, wandered through the weirdness of 1980’s Hollywood, moved to Nashville in the 1990’s, then in the 2000’s moved to the Sunshine State and played the Gulf Coast circuit. Yes, you have paid your dues and it shows.

Ms. Hart. Again, congratulations.  You have arrived.  And you deserve it. I can’t think of ten more compelling modern mainstream blues tracks.  At least, not since Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow became celebrated superstars.  All those years wandering in the wilderness have paid off.  They meld together on Congratulations and present a distinct, irresistible concoction.  Your writing is incredible.  Your voice exudes the pain of the blues.

You picked your back up band well.  You got your Nashville friend Wayne Killius to play drums; Rascal Flatts back up band mate Howard Duck to tickle the ivories; John Fogerty and The Judds guitarist Bob Britt to wail; legendary Nashville session musician of all session musicians, bassist Steve Bryant, and Dobro of Dobroists, Gene Bush.  You take care of the vocals, rhythm guitar and the songwriting. 

Oh, yes.  The songwriting.  It is extraordinary.  Congratulations, is a barn burner of a blues rock opener.  Get Ready does that major minor seventh thing that marches right out of the register all led by you, Ms. Hart, right to “the end of time.”  Put Me Back is an amazing twelve bar blues.  Your voice has me.  Your lyrics beckon me.  And my, you can cross-dress a tune.  What do you get when you cross Even Cowgirls Get The Blues with Dion’s I Wonder Why?  Your Even Country Gets The Blues. 

You can get as funky as funky can get.  There is New Orleans, L.A.  and Nashville in the mix now, not just Chicago.  You combine them and Get The Girls Dancing.  There is a lot of hard work and broken dreams behind this but, Amy, it has paid off.

When the track When Love Comes To Call came on I was ready for that slow anthem of a love ballad. And when you follow it with Rich Ass Daddy, it‘s a kick.  A rocking ‘n’ rolling rollick of blues fun and sass. 

Look Ms. Hart.  I mean no disrespect.  There’s a solid Nashville country feel to some of your ballads.  For you, that is a good thing.  Be That Way is a nice enough track with a sweet guitar and catchy hook. But, frankly I don’t think you need my opinion.  See, the next track Ribcage scares me.  It is so, so . . . well, you’re no longer a wide-eyed kid from Chicago are you?  Amy, that’s right, your living and playing the blues.  Nothing proves that better than track number ten, I’ve Got A Friend.  Sparsely orchestrated. Stripped to the bone.  We get to look into your blues soul.  

So Ms. Hart,  how does it taste?  Can we have more?

- Old School


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