Amanda McBroom: Voices

| May 5, 2017

Amanda McBroom


(Gecko Records)

May 5, 2017

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Amanda McBroom creates stories like a cinematographer; they come to life before us—moving and in color. Her newest CD begins with Julie Gold’s “Southbound Train,” a recollection of lost love, and ends with the savored, seasoned commitment of  “The Twelfth of Never” (Jerry Livingston/Paul Francis Webster).  “Savored and seasoned” might describe this particular effort.

In between, there’s bad timing, bad behavior, recognition, longing, and—intrinsic to all McBroom collections—hope. It’s tender, sometimes delicate, never insubstantial. These are the sentiments of a believer in spite of it all. And of those that agree.  

“Feet of Clay” (McBroom/Kathie Bailey/Mike Bonagura) sounds like a memory of parents, though it might be any couple. Love’s glue has many reasons, many compound formulas. We see results and consequences, not the sticky stuff: “…Oh, he loved her and she loved him/In their own peculiar way/I never knew till I was grown/That love has feet of clay…,” McBroom sighs.

Goodbyes are featured in “Yarnell Hill” (with Michele Brourman) and “Welcome Home” (McBroom) The first refers to a 2013 Arizona wildfire ignited by lightning that killed 19 firefighters. A humanist to her toes, McBroom is often inspired by news stories. In this tale, a wife with backbone waits for news of her brave husband with regrets that she didn’t say “goodbye.” Filled with particulars, its message is universal. Violins linger.

“Welcome Home” says farewell to a ship, a love, a parent, a home, an ideal…face in the wind, eye on the horizon with the amazing perspective that “…On the other side, voices will cry…Here she comes, welcome home….” Think about that a moment. Think about McBroom being able to wrap her mind around the thought during sad leave-taking.

“Voices That Come Through the Wall” (McBroom/Gordon Hunt/Rand Bishop) is rife with regret. Awareness of passing on the legacy of anger elicits a vow from the character to change things then and there. Description is vivid. Music has pith. Both banjo and violin add palpable texture.

Songs seem to come in pairs. “I’m Here for Life” (McBroom/Randy Goodrum) is a slow waltz promising love without foreseeable end. The lyric describes unusually calm, thoughtful devotion— a late-in-life wedding or the reconfirmed feelings of an older couple—Amanda and George? No “moon” and “June,” just heartfelt, unfussy truth. “Make a Memory” (McBroom) reflects the opposite end of “I want you.” The singer suggests making up for lost opportunity without strings or pledges. It might easily happen. He/she’s charming.

“Old Love” and “Hope Floats” (both with Brourman) are two timeless favorites. Once, getting in touch with an “old love” thirty or forty years later would’ve been a startling novelty. With the internet, it’s more common than you’d think. Capturing trust, if not belief, the song is dear, authentic. Deference and a pinch of humor at his own expense make the caller very sympathetic. Music box melody is a valentine. (Later, McBroom’s country-flavored “Sometimes” describes someone who has retrospective clarity, but doesn’t make the call: “Some hearts get broken/Some dreams come true/My sometime was my time with you….”

“Hope Floats” arrives like an uninsisting hug—warmth and surety coming perhaps from someone who’s lived longer.  It’s a sensitive “hang in there” lyric. The engaging tune circles as if a ribbon. One could fall in love with the contributing guitar.   

Musicianship, with as varied a roster of players as I’ve heard in some time, is superb. Voices does not fall into the current trap of overproduction when the participation of many players is involved. Music and lyrics remain front and center. Intention is paramount.

Also included on the CD are a sincere, dulcet rendition of Tom Paxton’s  “The Last Thing on My Mind,” and McBroom’s own “The Rose,” which, despite splendid guitar and a duet with Vince Gill, might be retired by its author.  A diehard fan of Amanda McBroom sensibilities, I admit to being disappointed at the inclusion of covers. Still, everything hangs. The artist continues to fly the banner of compassionate, perceptive truth.

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Category: Los Angeles, Los Angeles Music Reviews, Music, Music Reviews, New York City, New York City Music Reviews, Regional

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  1. A Conversation with Amanda McBroom | Cabaret Scenes | May 26, 2017
  1. Ken Hirsch says:

    A jewel of an album that covers all the bases, writing, musicianship, production and above all, Amanda’s superb vocals.

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