Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In a Nutshell - Amy Alvey "Big Ten" album review

I, myself, have been at Ten Gartland Street a number of times and the echoes of instruments from every room seem to ring through the house. I like how the liner notes say “All tunes written by Amy Alvey at Ten Gartland Street…”. Really makes it quite personal, and quite frankly, that’s what music is supposed to be. A personal depiction of something that you share with others to relate to and enjoy.

“Christine/Big Ten” starts off a sparse arrangement and has a very distant, "cold woods in December" kind of feel to it. It slowly builds and is a really adventure through the track. I really love when an instrumental tune does that for me. It goes from a wander through the snow laden oak trees to a wintery thrill ride on a horse drawn carriage (or something to that extent). The production value is great. Not overdone, not too raw, just right.

“Ask John”, is another quiet track with a Alvey’s faint fiddle pulls in the back, Lukas Pool’s banjo over the top, and then the fiddle takes over. I think the key to a really great fiddle tune is a repetitive and pleasant melody with interspersed sections of really great improvised playing and interesting diversions from that main melody. Alvey nails that formula on this tune.

“Smokey in the Kitchen” has clogging in it…yes, clogging, awesome, excellent! In that respect, the song pays homage to its (perhaps) celtic roots? I can picture folks sitting around a table in an old Irish pub with young lasses dancing and tapping their shoes to the beat. Very visceral and engaging track indeed.

I love when a musician takes on a traditional tune and Amy does just that with the tune “Troubles”. Her voice stands out in the mix, again strong and clear. The build of the instruments is really great and captures the vibe of the tune. In a world of crappy pop and paparazzi it’s nice to see folks paying homage to the great music that came before and acknowledging our roots.

Alvey has a simple, but solid vocal that lies in the folk/bluegrass realm. It really lends itself to be coupled with some great harmonies from picker/grinner/singer Mark Kilianski. The two play off each other effortlessly and their voices meld to create a beautiful, harmonious and uncomplicated quality. It’s very comforting and warm. The instrumental arrangements are familiar enough to grasp any audience (as far as instrument choices) but they certainly have a unique flair that makes them interesting and keeps the listener hanging on til the bitter end. Over all, the 7 tracks are full of intelligent and bright arrangements, some really on-point singing, and it’s clear that this young lady surrounds herself with like-minded and equally talented friends. Alvey’s voice fits perfect in the folk-bluegrass genre and her fiddle playing dances that line between pitch perfect and emotion-filled robustness.

Check out Amy’s record Big Ten on bandcamp at: http://amyalvey.bandcamp.com/album/big-ten

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