What comes gently drifting out of New Orleans like a comforting, warm cup of cafe au lait on a cold winter’s day? Why, the soft alto voice of Amanda Walker, the Twirl Radio Artist of the Month for August 2007, of course. And like that familiar cup of joe, Amanda’s songs soothe and warm you inside when you need them to.
Make no mistake–on paper, Amanda’s Rabadash Records debut CD, Amanda Walker looks to be a spare album. Nothing but Amanda’s vocals, piano playing, and songwriting. But it’s anything but spare.
In reality, Amanda is an incredibly talented musician. The first thing that struck me is that alto voice of hers. It’s soft and warm, and the perfect vehicle to deliver her very personal compositions. Most of these songs have to do with relationships. She’s young; she’s been through some disappointments, but I get the impression that she remains optimistic. In the liner notes to her album, she wryly thanks “various ex boyfriends for your continued inspiration”.
Believe starts off the album with Amanda telling us that as bad as things are, they will get better. It’s an amazingly beautiful and inspirational song–a post-Katrina lullaby, to convince herself that everything will be fine. This is where the world is first introduced to Amanda’s voice, reminiscent of Tasmin Archer’s. The piano playing starts off very solemnly. But surprisingly, at 1:24 into the song, she does a little roll of the keys, which to my West Coast ears, sounds like what New Orleans is supposed to sound like. For me, this one-second moment sets up the entire album.
Other standout tracks (and there are many) include California Sun, a wistful song about a growth moment which came when letting go of a relationship. Paul McCartney is a clever song about how the ex-Beatle is “the only crush who will never let her down”–most guys can’t live up to that ideal. In Glass House, Amanda sees a slightly younger version of herself about to make the same mistakes she made, and hopes her advice is taken. The melody and piano playing for “I Don’t Think It’s Me” sounds like classic New Orleans. Rosie is a nice love story about how her grandparents came together. Brighter Day is an uptempo travel song, and it caught my ear immediately. Lively piano playing on this one–again, reminds me of a classy honky tonk in New Orleans.
Most of them are fairly mellow–but they all sound different from each other. The melodies are by turns catchy and then haunting. The reason this album works so well is because of Amanda’s talent for creating interesting songs, and using just the right touches of piano and vocals to bring them to life. Oh yeah–did I mention that she painted the album cover too?
I have two wishes for Amanda Walker. First, I hope that the Starbucks chain will pick up her CD to play and sell in their stores. It would be a great fit–classy, elegant, and heartfelt. And secondly, wouldn’t it be great poetic justice if someday, some male singer sings that “Amanda Walker will never let him down”! Congratulations to Amanda Walker, for being the Twirl Artist of the Month for August, 2007!