Amy McCarley’s self-released album is a determinedly DIY affair and marks the artist’s first solo foray into the world of recording. Despite enthusiastic reception in sections of the southern States , McCarley, from Huntsville, Alabama, is largely unknown on this side of the pond – a circumstance she hopes this record (and the subsequent European dates that are planned) will rectify.
So then, does the material on offer do justice to McCarley’s ambitions? Sadly no. For the most part what lies within is a collection of largely forgettable sketches where the artist emerges as a sub- Lucinda Williams devoid of the charm, wit or poignancy. It says it all that the standout track (by a Huntsville Country Mile and then some) is a cover of Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio”. McCarley’s original material simply does not come close.
The album is characterised by below-par electric guitar playing, bad rhymes and refrains that are carried on far beyond the scale of time that is necessary. The lack of variety in pace does no favours either, only serving to add to the atmosphere of dirge-like misery and tedious predictability. Lyrical gems like I woke up this morning and everything had changed except the scenery do little to convince the listener that the artist really has anything new or startlingly relevant to say either.
The accompanying press release proudly extols the virtues of the DIY ethic – McCarley plays all the instruments on this and produces herself. While the playing is reasonably competent there is something to be said for the greater degrees of dexterity and expertise that more accomplished musicians would bring to the table. Furthermore, self- production is a tough one; a decent producer will take an artist out of their comfort zone and (at least in theory) wheedle out the good from the not good and act as a sonic watchdog. Without such a figure presiding, McCarley falls victim of permanently playing within her own comfort zone and (as the ‘aircraft hanger drums’ and misplaced cymbal splashes will attest) fails to consistently hit the mark in terms of recorded sound quality.