Amelia White: Candy Hearts (Independent, 2004)
Nashville. Just the mere mention of this town’s name in the context of music conjures up for outsiders the dual images of hokey country phenoms clothed in cowboy hats and denim, and stuffy, stiff-collared white Christian artists singing saccharine ballads to a sterile audience. It’s a shame, because beneath the cheesy self-congratulatory glitz of Nashville lies a music scene legitimate in integrity and artistry. Artists like Amelia White craft passionate and real music while remaining true to their calling as artisans. Hopefully these artists can one day burst through the mediocre glut of the Nashville mainstream.
With her EP release Candy Hearts, Amelia White is well on her way to breaking through and receiving serious attention as a singer/songwriter. The first thing one notices upon playing Candy Hearts is that voice. White sings with a confidence and poise fitting for a Top 40 star, yet somehow conveys a sense of raw emotion and world-weariness. White’s voice is showcased in the longing of “Black Doves”, in which she tempers her delivery with just a hint of southern drawl. Without resorting to a lazy generalization, it is appropriate to say that White sings like a gutsier and tougher Sheryl Crow, while still retaining a sense of sweetness and lightness in her vocals. Her gutsy side shows up for “Snakes and Pushers”, where White wails over an explosive bar-rock jam. Meanwhile, on tracks like “Candy Hearts” and “River”, White delivers her vocals with soft sensitivity. Clearly, Amelia White’s full-bodied voice competes with the best of those in the Nashville limelight.
However, there’s much more to White than her voice, for Candy Hearts reveals White as an extremely talented songwriter, too. Candy Hearts contains songs that are well-balanced and fully-developed, with generous hooks and classic melodies. And, for all their aesthetic beauty, White’s songs still convey true human emotion, such as the heartache and the fear of intimacy in “Afraid of a Kiss”. Any of the six songs on Candy Hearts are fit for radio in spite of (or perhaps because of) this mixture of technical excellence and emotional transparency they possess.
And, a review of Candy Hearts would not be complete without a mention of the pristine production executed by Neilson Hubbard and Brian Brown. This team surrounds White with a cast of seasoned musicians (such as another up and coming singer/songwriter Mack Starks on background vocals) to support her lovely songs. The production entails bass lines that sound pensive somehow, intertwining guitar lines, and smooth, confident drumming. The result is a sound that is measured and full, combining elements of ethereal pop, bar rock, alt-country, and conventional singer/songwriter fare. These disparate influences unite to form a distinct musical atmosphere that only adds to the poignancy if White’s songs.
In essence, Candy Hearts us a delightful listen that immediately wins over the listener while rewarding the same listener upon repeat spins of the EP. Amelia White is a classic talent whose willingness to engage in the seedier, grittier side of human emotion while taking a “just-off-the-beaten-track” approach to music sets her apart from her more well-known peers. Candy Hearts is a fine work that can be enjoyed on a number of levels by a broad section of music fans. For fans of Ohio-era Over the Rhine, Sheryl Crow, Neilson Hubbard, and Alt-Country/Americana in general.
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