The Reviews Are in for “The Muscle Shoals Sessions”

Muscle Shoals Cover 240“A blend of sultry desire, ardent passion and mournful deliberation, and a sound that’s both tough and tender, mixing swagger with sway.” (RELIX)

“The album finds Black offering terrific versions of some of the vintage soul and R&B numbers recorded in Muscle Shoals.” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER)

“[The album] showcases Black’s range as a skillful interpreter. She also included three of her originals, including the album’s centerpiece, “Woman on Fire,” a blazing call-to-arms that just happens to sum up her life these days.” (BOSTON GLOBE)

“To showcase her true potential as a bluesy, R&B heavy hitter, Amy Black had to go home. Thankfully, home for her is Muscle Shoals, Alabama, home to the mythic FAME Studios. Black’s soulful chops shine…” (ELMORE MAGAZINE)

“Black Is blessed with a deeply soulful voice that melds elements of Dusty Springfield, Mavis Staples and Alberta Hunter. On Penn and Oldham’s ‘Uptight, Good Man’ Black sounds like a female Percy Sledge with her gospel infused vocals – the traditional ‘You Gotta Move’ is a slab of old school Gospel/Blues replete with gutbucket vocals, harmonies and slide…You have a set that should propel Amy Black towards international stardom.” (BLUES IN BRITAIN)

“Black has some originals that are as interesting and as funky as the covers. ‘Please Don’t Give Up On Me’ sounds like it might have been penned by Swamper composer legend Dan Penn imbued by Black’s country soul vocals. ‘Get To Me’ is a country answer to Aretha’s ‘Do Right Man,’ with a spoken word chorus encouraging women to assert themselves and find a man who loves women for who and what what they are…a smooth blend of past and present that keeps the Swamper legacy alive and kicking’.” (NO DEPRESSION)

“The highlight just might be the majestic new take on the gospel classic ‘You Gotta Move.’ It sounds like the song goes all the way back to the beginning of time. It has the strength of those who are caught in the depth of human misery yet somehow look up and see a way to another life, a scorching take on a music which gives hope to the future. Amy Black knows the trip is worth everything she’s had to do to get there, and that the next and best stop is up around the bend. There are songs by legendary people like Sam Cooke, Don Covay, Dan Penn, Bob Dylan and Arthur Alexander to ensure the way is not lost, but Black’s originals stand right up to them. The king here is groove.” (BENTLEY’S BANDSTAND/THE MORTON REPORT)

“Amy Black has achieved acclaim as a fine singer/songwriter, mostly in the Americana/Country genres. But on ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’, Ms. Black stayed close to her north Alabama roots with a visit to the historically-significant FAME Recording Studios for this fine collection of soul classics and originals all given that iconic Muscle Shoals sound.” (BLUES BYTES)

“4 out of 4 Stars “There are great expectations when someone is attempting to capture the supernatural spirit of a highly regarded studio. Amy Black not only went back home for this record, but she went well prepared and with the talent to back herself up. ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’, exudes confidence and is a throwback to the days when records were made the old fashioned way, by hard work and good music.” (ALL ABOUT JAZZ)

“Amy Black delivers a consistently satisfying and soulful simmer on a set of nicely chosen covers and genre-savvy originals. And while the covers might draw the initial attention, particularly a classically Muscle Shoals-bedecked workup of the Sam Cooke classic ‘Bring It On Home’ or Dylan’s ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’, Ms. Black’s ‘Woman On Fire’ and ‘Get To Me’ are scorchers screaming for airplay.” (ROOTS MUSIC REPORT)

“Amy Black never fails to nail that rarefied musical sweet-spot where southern gospel, the blues and R&B meet and emerge as soul – imagine a vocal blend of Bonnie Raitt, Bobbie Gentry and Rosanne Cash and you’d be close…recorded at the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the result is a Spooner Oldham, Will Kimbrough and Shoals Horns-informed 12-song mix of Shoals-sourced classics…along with a trio or well-crafted, in-the-same-vein Black originals – the saucily percolating, occasionally simmering (a la Dusty Springfield) test testimonial ‘Get To Me’, a Black Keys-vibed ‘Woman On Fire’ and the horns-framed, tear-stained plea ‘Please Don’t Give Up On Me’.” (SHINDIG!)

“In the blue-eyed soul tradition, Black recalls Dusty Springfield, Bonnie Raitt and Joan Osborne, commanding a voice that conveys the rich emotional core of the material. She evokes strength and power on her best self-penned song here, ‘Woman On Fire’ and vulnerability and sadness on ‘Starting All Over Again.” (MANCHESTER UNION LEADER)

“While there’s always a parade of artists coming to the Shoals to seek inspiration, it is not often that an artist comes to pay tribute. [Black’s] decision to cover Shoals songs for the effort turns out to be a very wise one indeed.” (EXAMINER)

“‘You Left The Water Running’ is no less tear-stained than when Otis and Pickett each bled a version in the ’60s. And Black’s clean, clear voice keeps right on hooking hearts, switching over to her own spin on Arthur Alexander gentility, Etta James bluster, and even Sam Cooke-via-Lou Rawls funk…[her original] ‘Woman on Fire’…is pure fever–tone, tempo and desire.” (BALTIMORE BLUESRAG)

“3 1/2* Black’s own compositions held their own…The blistering ‘Woman On Fire’ featuring backing vocals by Ann and Regina McCrary, sounds like a lost track by LaBelle. The sultry ‘Get To Me’ calls to mind the romantic ballads of Dusty Springfield.” (ICON Magazine)

“Black states that the ‘Sessions’ speak to her soul and that they have changed her musical direction. Black’s performance on this recording will speak to your soul too.” (MAKING A SCENE)

“Amy Black ‘gets it’ and hopefully some of you will, too. ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ deserves to be heard by all who appreciate the funkier, soulful side of roots music. Amy Black just keeps getting better.” (FERVOR COULEE)

“Among the South’s many musical attractions, none seems to exert quite the pull of Alabama’s Muscle Shoals, whose FAME studio in the ’60s drew artists like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Etta James. Aretha Franklin’s career was revitalized and given a new direction there thanks to FAME’s studio-session musicians, among them organist Spooner Oldham, who pops up on several tracks here. Designed to ‘nail the spot where gospel, blues and R&B collide—and transform into soul,’ ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ is an expanded version of an EP songstress Amy Black made a few years ago that now includes three originals. My favorite is her ‘Woman on Fire.’ Set to a beat that mirrors her pulsating blood pressure, it’s the story of a woman who’s fixated on a musician…Among the covers are terrific versions of Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It on Home,’ Bob Dylan’s ‘Gotta Serve Somebody,’ ‘Uptight, Good Man’ by Dan Penn/Oldham and heartfelt treatment of the traditional spiritual, ‘You Got to Move.’ Great voice, great songs.”(CHICO NEWS & REVIEW)

“Amy Black knows how to reach down to the soul and change course to what feels right.” (THE IMPROPER BOSTONIAN)

“I can’t imagine anyone not getting caught up in this engaging collection, which mixes perfectly chosen covers with originals that evoke that classic sound without aping it.
‘Please Don’t Give Up On Me,’ perhaps the album’s standout track, Black takes full advantage of Charles Rose’s stellar horn arrangement, offering up a stunning soul gem that’s equal parts twangy torch song and slow-dance masterpiece.” (GATEHOUSE NEWSPAPERS wire service)

“First, a disclaimer: I’m a sucker for any singer who can do a great cover of a Sam Cooke song. Amy Black does exactly that, even though her uptempo R&B version of Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home’ is more in line with the funk and spice of a Lou Rawls version. But the woman’s got some pipes. On this, her third solo album…she finds the nexus between gospel, blues, soul, and R&B. Mature, confident, bold, tough but also tender, Black — who has lived most of her life in Boston — has what it takes to be something special.” (THE TOLEDO BLADE)

“Black puts a modern twist on the work of the classic soul…of the 1960s through her Muscle Shoals performances of hits by artists such as Aretha Franklin, Etta James and the Rolling Stones…” (CLEVELAND SCENE)

“2015’s ‘Muscle Shoals Sessions’ shows Amy Black at her most versatile, channeling the music of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, circa 1969 (and the surrounding decades, of course).” (RIVERFRONT TIMES)

“Her recording ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ finds her delving into the rootsy, southern, bluesy, old time aura that rises from north Alabam’, forging creative covers of music from Sam Cooke and Dan Penn among others, and adding her own songs to the mix. Black is well equipped to do this, with a voice that holds hints of Bonnie Raitt and Etta James yet remains uniquely her own, and with a creative imagination that recasts Bob Dylan’s ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ and the Black Keys’ Tighten Up in ways that completely fit the roots infused story Black is telling. Those are standout tracks; so are Black’s own ‘Please Don’t Give Up On Me’ and Cooke’s Bring It On Home. Really, though, each of the dozen tracks is a keeper. (MUSIC ROAD)

“If you’re gonna cover Sam Cooke, you better do it right. If you’re going to cover­ Bob Dylan, you better do it right. If you’re — OK, you get it. Amy Black has picked out some le­gendary material for new LP ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ (if you’re going to call your album ‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions,’ you better …) and Black brings every sweet song home. (THE BOSTON HERALD)

“‘The Muscle Shoals Sessions’ [is] a record as warm and funky as an Alabama summer night.” (SEVEN DAYS)

“Five Stars – ‘This is an extremely soulful new recording that will please Muscle Shoals fans old and new.’” (SUN HERALD)

“Killer blue eyed soul” (MIDWEST REVIEW)

Amy Black at Johnny D’s on June 12 and 13 – The Muscle Shoals Sessions Album Release and Farewell Boston Shows

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TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR BOTH NIGHTS
Friday night, June 12 >> Get Tickets
Saturday night, June 13  >> Get Tickets
Boston is a excellent place to start and grow a music career. Just ask Amy Black. In a relatively short time, she’s made her way from an unknown to a respected national touring singer and songwriter and on June 9, 2015 will release her third solo studio album, “The Muscle Shoals Sessions.” With her two nights at Johnny D’s on June 12 and June 13, Amy is both celebrating the new album and bidding Boston farewell as she makes the move to Nashville to start a next chapter.
Don’t miss the chance to join Amy, a killer band and special guests for a send off and to enjoy a live performance of “The Muscle Shoals Sessions” her new album of classic soul and inspired originals recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (her family’s homeland) with legendary keys player, Spooner Oldham, Will Kimbrough and Regina and Ann McCrary of the McCrary Sisters.

American Songwriter Magazine calls Amy Black “a powerful, authentic, talented and above all soulful new entry in the rootsy singer/songwriter ranks;” while the Philadelphia Inquirer calls her ” an appealing cross between Bonnie Raitt and Mary Chapin Carpenter” with “songs that mix substance and accessibility.” With storytelling and southern tradition in her blood, Amy has shared stages with artists including Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Delbert McClinton, Chris Isaak, Suzy Boggus, Joey Ely, and the Courtyard Hounds. Her seamless blend of all things Americana, coupled with her soulful, smooth vocals and gift for bringing characters to life through song make her an artist that pleases lovers of blues, soul and country alike. More about Amy at www.amyblack.com

Opening act: Lewis West at 6:15 pm
Amy and Band from 7:00 – 9:00 pm

Reflections on a Southern journey

 

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Wore my  Mavis shirt on for inspiration!

I’m taking a moment to reflect and recount the events of my amazing last two weeks down South. Bottom line feeling – gratitude. This is the start of my second year of full-time music making, touring the country and giving this career everything I have. I’m discovering that what is at the heart of this life as a lower to middle class musician is:

1) The people. The music lovers who are filled with passion and are generous of spirit. They open their homes to you, cook you a hot meal, bring their friends to meet you, make you feel like what you are doing is important and matters.

2)The experiences. Visiting new places across this grand nation, playing new venues, each with its own flavor, tasting the local cuisine, hanging around for a bit and learning about what a community has to offer. Seeing the love that locals have for their cities, their sports teams — but mostly for the music and how that love unites us all.

No matter what the future holds for me, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have the life I’ve got RIGHT NOW and for all the people along the way who are inspiring and encouraging me. We are in this together.

Making Sweet Music with Ann and Regina McCrary + HORNS!

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With Regina (front) and Ann (back) McCrary

First stop, Nashville, to record Regina and Ann McCrary and an awesome horn section for the new album. I’m grateful these folks wanted to be a part of my project and am blown away by their talent. It was magical hearing their parts added to the music we recorded in Muscle Shoals with the band last month. They took the album to another level!

A shout out for my producer: Lex Price is the best. He’s talented and dedicated. He’s a perfectionist (in the right way) and is making sure that this album sounds the best it can. I’m lucky to have him on my team!

 


Shows with Will Kimbrough in Nashville and Alabama

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With Will Kimbrough at the Bluebird Cafe

 

I got to play some great shows with Will Kimbrough, first at The Bluebird Cafe​ in Nashville with Blue Mother Tupelo. One of my biggest supporters, Debbie from Texas, drove all the way to Nashville to see the show. That made my night. Next, we went to Birmingham, AL hosted by a wonderful group of music lovers known as “Small Stages” who got 100 people out and had to turn 50 away. I’m grateful for the folks who let us stay in their lovely home that night, and for the awesome couple who made us breakfast the next morning before we headed out for lower Alabama.

We played the magical Frog Pond Sunday Social​ at Blue Moon Farm near Mobile, AL, where our hostess Cathe Steele wowed us with her concert series, beautiful grounds, a wonderful place to stay, a hot breakfast cooked over an open fire and a generous spirit.

A Little R&R on 30A in Florida

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I discovered 30A in January at a songwriting festival and couldn’t wait to get back!

My husband, Ryan, and I took off from there for Rosemary Beach, Florida, for a few days of rest in a condo that a wonderful guy who lives in Japan offered to us for no cost simply because I’m a musician. Wow.

Down in the Mississippi Delta

Next stop, Clarksdale, MS in the heart of the Delta. We stayed at The Shack Up Inn​ and met the owners, finding out that we have friends in common.

While eating breakfast in town, we were approached by a friendly gentleman because I had my guitar with me. He wanted to know who we were and he happened to be the owner of the cafe — and a lawyer. He told us there was a meeting going on across the street with a bunch of folks from Nashville and elsewhere about a new movement called the Americana Music Triangle​. He thought we’d be interested.

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Our shack at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, MS

We walked in and met the mayor of Clarksdale, Bill Luckett (co-owner with Morgan Freeman of Ground Zero Blues Club) and we met Aubrey Preston of Nashville who is heading this whole thing up (he also orchestrated the rescue of Studio A in Nashville – where I recorded my last album). He was joined by the head of the Franklin Theatre in TN as well as tourism leaders from four different states and most of the local owners of music related venues and stores. The meeting was inspiring and now we are on board with the movement. I happened to be one of the only artist there and I happened to have just recorded in Muscle Shoals, AL. When I told the group I would be touring with a Muscle Shoals Revue show this summer — the mayor said, “See me after.” I’m now playing Ground Zero on July 15.

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Sweet fans from Rhode Island who happened to be in Clarksdale

After the meeting, we headed over to Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Arts​ to talk with the owner and music/community organizer guru, Roger Stolle. While speaking to him, two ladies came in the store and all of a sudden they were right next to me telling him, “This is one of the best singers in New England.” I turned and saw two fans from Rhode Island who have been to multiple shows at The Narrows in Fall River, MA, and just happened to be in Clarksdale…with me…in February. Wow. They made my day.

Next, we moved on to Oxford, MS and stayed with the most excellent Allouises — John and Marie. They are from Revere and now live in Mississippi. They left it all behind to move down to the Delta where Marie’s family is from originally and where John gets to play bass on some of the coolest gigs eva (Boston accent)! John made us an incredible meal, complete with homemade pasta and lots of delicious red wine. They put us up for the night in their guest room and then next day we met our our friend (and killer keys player) Mark Yacavone for a southern breakfast before getting on the road to Muscle Shoals.

 

Back to Muscle Shoals, Ice Driving

The trip from Oxford to Muscle Shoals was slippery — lots of ice on the road — and by the time we arrived in Florence, AL, around 3 pm, everything was shutting down. The roads were covered in ice. Our wonderful hosts Will and Julie Trapp let us come over to their place a little earlier than planned and set up camp in their guest bedroom. They made us soup and grilled cheese (Will’s specialty) and then Will braved the elements to take us over to a venue in town for some music. His ice driving was impressive.

Nashville then Home!

The next day, we headed back to Nashville for a last day with my parents before flying back to Boston. They are wonderful people. Kind, generous in spirit, loving and a joy. It’s so special to get time together as life keeps marching forward. We are making plans to see them more often.

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A cold day in Florida with my best friend and partner in life (and my drummer) – so grateful he’s on this journey with me!

This is a lot. A lot of happenings, a lot of info. When I started this post, I was writing it on Facebook. I wasn’t planning on typing so much, but there was so much to tell. So much to be grateful for. Now as I look back, I see what a killer couple of weeks that was, how much generosity we experienced. It’s easy to walk away and leave a time like this behind too quickly. I’m taking a moment to reflect and be inspired.

I’m beginning to understand what is truly at the heart of building a music career from the ground up — what the true joy is. It’s the people and experiences you encounter along the way. THANK YOU.