With this album, Amy’s fifth, she returns to her family’s roots in Alabama. A preacher’s daughter, Black was born and raised in the south until her father was posted to a church in Boston where Amy finished her education and went in to marketing. Musically she started out with the Red Clay Rascals and wended her way through the various strands of Americana, discovering a true gift for songwriting as she went. Her songs are country with a strong woman’s edge, taking on topics that mainstream country avoids; broken relationships, suicide and divorce. Things aren’t always grim in Amy’s world with jaunty songs like Cat’s in the Kitchen which makes me laugh out loud every time I hear it.
The Muscle Shoals Sessions is nine covers and only three of Amy’s songs, unlike most of her earlier albums which lean towards her own songs. But my goodness, what cover versions; Sam Cooke’s Bring it on Home, a great reading of Bob Dylan’s You Gotta Serve Somebody, Arthur Alexander’s You Better Move On, two Dan Penn songs, Mel & Tim’s Starting All Over Again, Mississippi Fred McDowell’s You Gotta Move (also covered by the Rolling Stones on Sticky Fingers) and the Black Keys’ Tighten Up, all of which sound great. Amy’s own three songs Get to Me, Please Don’t Give up on Me and Woman on Fire stand up well in such amazing company with Woman on Fire the absolute standout. A real mover, it is a fabulous live showpiece.
The band features Spooner Oldham on Wurlitzer and organ, Will Kimbrough on guitars and the McCrary Sisters on backing vocals as well as a hot brass and reed section and they are superlative throughout as is Amy. This is definitely her album and displays her talents in the canon of country soul, following easily in the footsteps of Tony Joe White, Bobbie Gentry and Larry Jon Wilson.
Amy is packing up her home and career and moving to Nashville to make a living in music. Having seen her live at Johnny D’s in Somerville at her combination ‘Goodbye to Boston/Muscle Shoals Session album launch’ she certainly has the goods to make it. I can only wish her the very best of luck and thank her for this excellent album.