Amanda Pearcy. Royal Street.

Hailing from Texas, Amanda Pearcy‘s second album is an exploration of sadness and loss and having read her biography one is tempted to imagine that she’s singing about herself in many of these songs. Widowed and with a child she fell into a turbulent second marriage before eventually getting to where she is now, settled, married again and producing some fine and moving music.
Pearcy has an attractive bluesy husk of a voice that is perfectly suited to her blue eyed gospel soul and country sound that peppers the album. She opens with Bring You Home, a brave choice as this in not exactly the toe tapping door banger one might expect at the beginning of an album and it’s certainly not the most immediate song here. With a string arrangement (by producer Tim Lorsch) the song hesitantly picks its way across a delicately plucked guitar as Pearcy unveils her heartache singing “When my tears have made a salty ocean of me I’ll chart a course across the dark sea of me.” Strong stuff. At times it’s reminiscent of Mary Gauthier and after submerged oneself in it for a few weeks it does assert itself as a perfect opener setting the tone, if not the style for much of the album to follow. Having crossed this sea of heartbreak Pearcy finds herself in border territory with the Mexican tinged Barking Dogs. Here she’s running away from the past and the song is an excellent border ballad with a hint of tension and freedom mixed in with the exotica of Mexico. This mildly up-tempo route continues in The Story Of My Heart which replaces the Mexican violin with pedal steel although the accordion which wheezes throughout helms the song firmly in the south. This tale of a female barfly is a classic hard luck story and could well have been sung by Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn in their heyday. After this it’s a fair bet that several country divas would give their eye teeth to get a hold of Lackin’ In Nothin‘. A slow tempo beer stained country waltz with classic lyrics, Pearcy sings it with Jon Byrd, evoking numerous country partnerships of the past.
If the above weren’t enough to have the average listener crying in their beer Pearcy reaches deep down and produces a couple of tear jerking ballads that could stop you in your tracks. Nickel In The Vase is a relatively unadorned tale of a blind beggar boy but the emotional vocal delivery sends shivers down the spine. In a similar vein the title song is another bare boned song with tugging strings on an evocative song where the singer seeks out garnet gemstones in New Orleans in order to drop them in the ocean wishing she could drown her regrets, a superb piece.
It’s fair to say that all of Pearcy’s songs on the album of a high standard. Better On My Own is a bluesy slink with some fine slide guitar from George Bradfute that strays into Cowboy Junkies territory while A Thousand Tender Recollections is given a deep soulful gospel rendition. Forgiven wafts along on a pillow of accordion and sweet guitar with a particularly fine solo from Bradfute, the tender delivery in contrast to the existential lyrics. Pearcy ends the album with two covers. The Rolling Stones’ No Expectations again visits Cowboy Junkiedom while the faux antiquary of Wish I’s In Heaven Settin’ Down pops up after the official track listing is done. Both are well done but here they pale in comparison to what has gone before.

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