Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pretty Runs Out - Amanda Shaw

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It would be easy to be cynical about 18 year old (just) Amanda Shaw. At the age of seven she became the youngest performer ever to solo with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and in more recent years has cemented a place as a firm crown favourite at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival. She also apparently was once in the running for the role of Hannah Montana, having appeared in two Disney movies. On the basis of her debut on Rounder, Pretty Runs Out, we should all be grateful that she eschewed the Disney route because she sounds quite the talent.

Her expert "fiddle" playing, combined with a strong Cajun sound that mixes Louisiana jazz with modern country, saddled with burgeoning songwriting skills make this an impressive first shot at worldwide stardom.

The blues-driven Chirmolito, inspired by two Mexican's who helped to rebuild Shaw's home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is a winner, as is Brick Wall with its, always welcome, trombone backing. It's also hard, after listening to Shaw make it her own, to imagine that Cyndi Lauper could ever have sung I Don't Want To Be Your Friend.

She even excels at instrumentals; French Jig and McGee's Medley are foot-stompers that can't fail to put a smile on your face and Reels: The Gaspe Reel/ Sam's Slammer/ Imogen's Ridge repeats the trick towards the end of the album.

Shaw has a good voice and, more importantly, one that has character. It never sounds too polished and merely ends up sounding like all good voices should; unique and personable.

All in all this is a great major-label debut for Shaw and one which hints at great things to come. Anyone with an open mind will surely fall in love with this album.

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