Amy Black’s new album, “Memphis” is available for pre-order!
Digital albums purchased through iTunes can be found in your iTunes library on June 2, 2017. CDs and LPs will ship on June 2.
Amy Black’s fourth solo release, “Memphis” was recorded in Memphis with grammy-nominated producer and leader of the band The Bo-Keys, Scott Bomar, at the helm. The powerful 10-song album features three members of the Hi Rhythm section who played on all Al Green classics — The Rev. Charles Hodges on the Hammond B and piano, his brother Leroy “Flick” Hodges on bass, and Howard Grimes on drums, along with former Stax guitarist Bobby Manuel – all architects of the Memphis sound.
Devising and creating the “Memphis” album was an obvious next step for Black, on the heels of her third release, “The Muscle Shoals Sessions.” This album was recorded in 2015 in her family’s homeland of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, at the historic FAME Studios, and featured legendary keyboardist and “Swamper” Spooner Oldham.
The album will be released on Friday, June 2, 2017 and will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Napster and amyblack.com
The album can also be pre-ordered. Pre-orders will receive the album in advance of the official release date.
Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was always an important part of my life. Whenever I went to visit my grandparents in the adjacent town, Sheffield, we always drove to Muscle Shoals (it was 10 minutes away) to hit the local fast food joints and to do some shopping at Rogers department store. Both Walmart and Kmart were in Muscle Shoals. That says it all. On all of those drives we would pass the historic FAME Studios.
I didn’t know that FAME was an important place in music history until years later. And honestly, if someone had told me when I was 12 about the folks who recorded there, I probably wouldn’t have been that impressed. I had yet to be introduced to the fine music of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, etc. Little did I know that this studio and the music that was recorded there would become such an important part of my life all these years later.
I have a deep connection with Muscle Shoals because of the sweet memories I have of my grandparents that span 30 plus years. And now I have a new connection because of the music I’ve come to love.
2016 was truly the year of Muscle Shoals. I released a full-length album recorded at FAME with an amazing cast of players, including the legendary Spooner Oldham. The “Muscle Shoals Sessions” includes classic songs and some new ones I wrote just for this project. And then, this past summer, I took a Muscle Shoals Revue on the road, playing 50 shows across the country.
Touring extensively with a full band was a first for me. I held auditions for Berklee students in Boston to build the band. They would tour with me as a part of a paid internship that would give them great road and performance experience, playing excellent listening rooms in great cities across the U.S. While this project could have failed, it did not, and the fellas who toured with us were great guys and and players. We had a great summer together and several of them are touring with us again in 2016.
My husband Ryan, who learned to play the drums to support my music and to be a part of it, was our drummer for most of the summer and will return to the tour this year. I’m so proud of him and glad we can make music together.
My rock-n-rolling friend Sarah Borges joined us for a good number of the shows in 2015. It was a blast to have her along! She’s got a new album coming out this year and that will be her focus. Definitely check it out (it’s called Good and Dirty).
As I embark on 2016, it’s hard to believe that just over two years ago, I was working an office job four days a week and touring on the weekends. Two albums and two years of extensive touring later, that old life is solidly in the past. The path I’ve chosen isn’t easy and it doesn’t pay a third of the desk job, but I do love it and have no regrets!
I have Muscle Shoals to thank for an incredible 2015 and for what’s to come in 2016 and 2017. I’ll continue the Muscle Shoals tour this year, taking it back on the road this summer and then in early 2017, I plan to record my next album of originals (with the support of my fans), which will be greatly influenced and inspired by the soulful music I’ve been playing and singing for the past few years now.
“Place” will once again play an important role in my music. Who knows where the music will take me for my next album. Time will tell. But I’m sure glad and grateful it took me to Muscle Shoals for my current one.
“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)
SOMERVILLE – Amy Black stood in this same kitchen with this same reporter nearly three years ago. But the circumstances were different, maybe even a little uncertain. Back then, Black was still working her day job in marketing, but had decided to chase a harebrained idea. It seemed crazy, but she couldn’t help but wonder:
At 40, could she pull off a lifelong dream to become a full-time singer and songwriter
Three years and as many albums later, she’s discovered she can — and has. Earlier this week Black self-released her third album, “The Muscle Shoals Sessions,” which took her to Alabama to record at FAME Recording Studios in the fabled Southern town referenced in the title.
Working with legendary Muscle Shoals musicians such as Spooner Oldham on organ, Black veered away from the country and folk leanings of her previous releases for a confident foray into blue-eyed soul music. She’s been hooked on soul lately, and for a recent interview at her Somerville home, she’s sporting a Mavis Staples T-shirt to prove it.
“When you’re in the middle of something, sometimes you don’t recognize progress,” Black says on her back porch, sipping coffee with her husband, Ryan, by her side. “But when I do take a step back and see how far I’ve come, it’s pretty amazing. It’s a short period of time for the amount of discovery and music I’ve produced.”
“Black tells PopMatters about her choice of “Bring It On Home to Me”: “When selecting songs for The Muscle Shoals Sessions album, I stumbled on a very funky interpretation of Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring It On Home to Me’, recorded by Lou Rawls in Muscle Shoals a decade after the original. This version is a blast to perform live. I brought that energy to the video, and resurrected a special character who came to life several Halloween’s ago. Her name is Grandma Gertie; she’s from Waterloo, Alabama, carries Moonpies in her pockets, loves her sweetheart, and has to ‘shake that thang’ when she hears a killer groove.”
Sultry-Voiced Singer Returns to Site of Childhood Memories For The Muscle Shoals Sessions, Recorded At FAME Studios with Keyboardist Spooner Oldham, Guitarist Will Kimbrough, Ann and Regina McCrary, Brian Owings and Muscle Shoals Horns’, Charles Rose
For Amy Black, Muscle Shoals, Ala., has always held a special magic. Her parents were born there, and some of her fondest memories were made during frequent visits to both sets of grandparents. She spent so much time in “the Shoals,” it felt more like home than many of the places she’d actually lived. She even knew the local hangouts and town lore. Or thought she did.
Black remembers passing FAME Studios often; it was right on the main drag. But she had no awareness then of its musical history or impact, much less any inkling that she’d wind up making music her career. Little could she know that one day, a session with the legendary Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham would launch her on a journey of discovery that would give her an even deeper connection with a place she loves. After Oldham, one of Muscle Shoals’ original “Swampers” session players, was serendipitously invited to perform on her 2013 EP The Muscle Shoals Session, her interest in the sound and its story was awakened. She fell so in love — and felt so at home — with the sweet soul music he’d helped craft decades before, she expanded the EP into an entire album of Shoals classics and seamlessly blended originals. The Muscle Shoals Sessions, her third solo release, arrives June 9, 2015 on her own Reuben Records label.
Recorded at FAME with producer/bass player Lex Price and featuring contributions by Oldham, guitarist Will Kimbrough and singers Ann and Regina McCrary, and a horn section led by Muscle Shoals Horns ringleader Charles Rose, and the drumming of Paul Griffith and Bryan Owings, these songs showcase a vocalist who expertly balances confidence and vulnerability, toughness and tenderness. Sliding and slinking her way through each note, Black never fails to nail the spot where gospel, blues and R&B collide — and transform into soul. Inspired by Etta James, Mavis Staples, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and so many others who recorded some of modern music’s most iconic songs in this little Alabama hamlet, Black’s project pays homage to magic made at both FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, as well as to her beloved grandparents, and the cherished memories she carries of childhood sojourns.
“Making this music has changed me as an artist. It’s altered my musical course and I’m so glad,” says Black.” Black had originally booked time at FAME to record her song, “Alabama,” an ode to her late grandfather, for her 2014 release, This is Home. She wound up cutting the track at the historic Studio A in Nashville, so she banked the time for later — and came up with the idea of releasing a four-track EP of Muscle Shoals nuggets as a further reference to the concept of home.
Price got Oldham to join Black and Nashvillians Kimbrough (a Mobile, Ala., native) and drummer Paul Griffith in that session.
Back in Boston, where she’d lived since she was 15, Black did an EP release “pop-up” show with fellow singer-songwriter Sarah Borges that was so well received they did more throughout New England. Black even performed the show in Muscle Shoals with Oldham and original Swampers bassist David Hood.
“I got more and more comfortable and confident with the material and started enjoying myself immensely,” she recalls. “It seemed audiences were, too. Performing this music live woke something up in me. I put my guitar down and danced, and used my voice in new ways I didn’t know I could.”
Though Black says the EP was intended mainly as a teaser for This is Home, it organically grew into so much more; she couldn’t help diving deeper.
“When you come to something a little late, you’re trying to find your path,” she observes. “It’s a journey, and for me, the Muscle Shoals piece has been so key because it’s helped me tap into the music that speaks to my soul.”
When she says “late,” Black’s referring to her revelation, at 35, that she wanted to start singing again after years of inactivity. Though she had sung in church since childhood, fell under Bonnie Raitt’s spell at 16 and joined bands in college, she went on to build a successful marketing career with no thought of pursuing music. Once the muse gripped her, however, it didn’t let go. Black released her first album of original material, One Time, in 2011.
When she recorded the EP, Black sought to avoid overly obvious selections. She chose Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On,” the Dan Penn/Rick Hall/Oscar Franks co-write “You Left the Water Running,” Phillip Mitchell’s “Starting All Over Again” and, to connect past and present, the Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” (from their Shoals-recorded Brothers album).
For the full-length Sessions, she added a funky Lou Rawls version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home”; the Oldham/Dan Penn composition “Uptight, Good Man”; Don Covay’s “Watch Dog” (originally recorded by Etta James); a smokin’ take on Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody”; and an even bluesier, sultrier rendition of the old spiritual, “You Gotta Move,” than the Stones’ Sticky Fingers version.
Regarding her originals on the album, she says, “I wanted to challenge myself to contribute to the project by crafting some songs that embody the Muscle Shoals spirit.” One result is “Please Don’t Give Up on Me,” one of several tracks elegantly embellished by the McCrarys’ harmonies and the solid grooves of drummer Bryan Owings, whose FAME credits include recent work with Alicia Keys. The scorcher “Woman on Fire,” another original, draws on the Black Keys’ vibe. And the sensual, percolating “Get to Me” gives a nod to Dusty Springfield.
Now, she wants to educate others about Muscle Shoals, this special corner of the world that means so much to her. For Black, this is one more chapter of an amazing odyssey, one that started with her simple desire to “get out and sing,” then paved a circular road right back to the place that, musically and emotionally, feels like home.