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Amy Ray — Goodnight Tender (2014)

 Amy Ray — Goodnight Tender (2014)

USA Flag           Amy Ray — Goodnight Tender
→   “You want me to be the oyster that has the pearl… but there ain’t nothing like that in this girl.”
Born: April 12, 1964 in Decatur, GA
Location: Dahlonega, Georgia, U.S.
Album release: January 28, 2014
Recording date: May, 2013
Record Label: Daemon Records
Duration:     42:30
01. Hunter's Prayer      (3:35)
02. Oyster & Pearl (feat. Phil Cook, Brad Cook & Justin Vernon)      (4:00)
03. The Gig That Matters (feat. Heather McEntire)      (3:41)
04. Time Zone (feat. Kelly Hogan)      (4:26)
05. Anyhow      (3:02)
06. Duane Allman (feat. Susan Tedeschi)      (2:51)
07. More Pills (feat. Heather McEntire)      (3:33)
08. Broken Record (feat. Phil Cook, Brad Cook & Justin Vernon)      (3:10)
09. Goodnight Tender (feat. Kelly Hogan)      (4:00)
10. My Dog      (2:21)
11. Let The Spirit (feat. Justin Vernon)      (4:05)
12. When You Come For Me (feat. Heather McEntire)      (3:46)
2014 Daemon Records 

                                                                        © Amy and her J45
→  Jon Ashley  Assistant Engineer, Harmony
→  Jim Brock  Drums, Percussion, Production Assistant
→  Adrian Carter  Fiddle
→  Mark Chalecki  Mastering
→  Brad Cook  Bass (Electric), Harmony
→  Phil Cook  Banjo, Electric Slide Guitar, Harmony, Piano, Producer, Wurlitzer
→  Paul Dunlap  Photography
→  Jeff Fielder  Banjo, Bass (Electric), Dobro, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Baritone), Guitar (Electric), Harmony, Piano, Production Assistant
→  Susan Gramling  Stylist
→  Mark Greenberg  Engineer
→  Kelly Hogan  Harmony
→  Jake Hopping  Standup Bass
→  Brian Joseph  Piano Engineer
→  Terry Lonergan  Drums
→  Pete Lyman  Mastering
→  Heather McEntire  Composer, Harmony, Vocals
→  Jaron Pearlman  Engineer
→  Denise Plumb  Artwork, Design
→  Amy Ray  Composer, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Mandolin, Producer, Vocals
→  Trina Shoemaker  Mixing
→  Matt Smith  Pedal Steel
→  Brian Speiser  Engineer, Harmony, Producer, Production Assistant
→  Susan Tedeschi  Harmony
→  Hannah Thomas  Harmony
→  Bobby Tis  Engineer
→  Justin Vernon  Banjo, Guitar (Electric), Harmony, Mandolin, Slide Mandolin
Billboard Albums: 2014 Goodnight Tender  Top Heatseekers  #14
Album Moods:
→  Amiable/Good-Natured Bittersweet Earnest Earthy Irreverent Plaintive Poignant Reflective Rollicking Rousing Searching Sentimental Wistful Yearning
Written by Hal Horowitz January 29th, 2014 at 5:26 pm
Score: 5/5
♦   Country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, Appalachian music. . . Amy Ray has at least tangentially dipped her toes into those styles between albums with the Indigo Girls and, to a lesser extent, her solo releases of which this is her fifth. But here she dives into these waters, (mostly) unplugging for a dozen tunes that feature pedal steel, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, dobro, piano and upright bass.
♦   Ray’s Atlanta upbringing may not have emerged directly from country and western, but her roots clearly run deep into this music, enough so that these eleven originals and one obscure cover (from Megafaun, whose frontwoman also sings it) feel genuine, lived in and entirely authentic. Ray also produced the album, showing a sure hand with keeping an open sound that stays uncluttered even when it’s not always stripped down.
♦   Lyrically she sticks to what she knows and sees, using Duane Allman’s death as a metaphor for how the South revives and reinvents itself after a tragedy, talking about a protagonist taking “More Pills” to kill the pain of a broken heart, pining over a lost love in the lovely waltz “Broken Record,” comparing her emotions to her dog’s even temperament, and in the title ballad, narrating a touching tale sung in the first person of a senior citizen looking back over various romantic attachments.
♦   Ray’s distinctive, always emotive voice can be tender or tough, frisky or forlorn and any combination of those, but always compliments the music and lyrics. Goodnight Tender may not be a radical sonic departure but by recording an entire country album, Amy Ray can check another box on her career genre list, and do it with pride in a job beautifully done. Fortaken: http://www.americansongwriter.com/
By Matt Casarino 23 January 2014;  Score: 8
♦   “You want me to be the oyster that has the pearl… but there ain’t nothing like that in this girl.”
♦   Rock ‘n’ roll arrives with a time-stamp; listen to any rocker recorded after 1954 and you can probably name that decade, if not the exact year. But country – real country, not pop music gussied up with a steel guitar and a nasal twang — is timeless, and that’s rather the point. Once you feel how lonesome Hank is, once you know George stopped loving her today, once you’ve heard Patty fall to pieces, you know it makes no damn sense updating a sound that’s already perfect. Country doesn’t care what chords you know or how many octaves you can squeak out; all it wants from you is a guitar, a strong, down-but-not-out voice, and absolute sincerity.
♦   Amy Ray gets this to her core, which is why Goodnight Tender is such a satisfying album. She’s dabbled in southern music before, of course, from her Appalachian-tinged work with the Indigo Girls (“Ozilline”, “Chickenman”, “This Train Revised”) to some down-home country punk/folk not all that far removed from the Violent Femmes (Stag’s “Johnny Rottentail”, Didn’t it Feel Kinder’s “Rabbit Foot”). But the music on Goodnight Tender is dense and sure-footed, boldly occupying space in a way her previous rootsy offerings could never quite muster. Maybe that’s because there’s no fusion here; the only reference to anything remotely modern is Ray’s cheeky desire to “Skip to my Lou to the dubstep sound” in “Oyster and Pearl”. To borrow a phrase, this is pure country, the kind of smooth, mournful racket folks make on their porch with a few guitars, a banjo and a pedal steel, maybe even a snare drum and a fiddle or two.
♦   And what drives it all is Ray’s wonderful voice. It’s deeper than ever — she’s effortless on some low notes that would give Trace Adkins trouble — but it’s also smooth and mature, with just the tiniest trace of that whiskey-nightcap rasp. She sounds as wise as she does vulnerable, and the few times she abandons her contralto for a high note (“My Dog”), the effect is both jarring and reassuring. She communicates like a true storyteller, easily gliding through her melodies with no trace of pretense. She’s got a natural Georgia drawl, of course, but even that is kept relatively in check. ♦   There are no ornaments on these songs, no frills, and none are needed.
♦   Still, sometimes it feels like Ray is working hard, maybe too hard, to convince us she’s the real deal. She seems to kick off every song with some dusty artifact of country livin’, from a deer in the crosshairs (“Hunter’s Prayer”) to rain in a river bed (“Oyster and Pearl”) to the Montana sky in the dead of winter (“Broken Record”) to “whiskey swamps and vagabond clans” (“Duane Allman”). But she manages to develop each one into a genuine portrait — they’re only clichés because they’re rooted in truth, she seems to say, before gently breaking our hearts.
♦   Speaking of heartbreak, it’s all over Goodnight Tender. There’s a lot of sadness here, and even more loneliness, but the tone is never depressing — Ray’s wisdom and compassion, not to mention her infectious joy at creating such a pure, unadorned sound, keep the music exhilarating, even at its most downbeat. On the bouncy ballad “Time Zone”, she cuts right to the bone with tough-minded romantic realism: “I’m in your time zone / But I’m calling to let you down / ‘Cause it don’t mean what I thought it would”. “More Pills” aches with melancholy and yearning for a relationship she isn’t strong enough to maintain. “Duane Allman” deals with a different kind of loss as our heroine tries to let go of her musical hero (“We learn to dig deep / Wipe our hands / And walk away from the grave”). Appropriately, “Duane Allman” comes closer to country-rock than anything else in this set; you’d have to be the citiest of city slickers to keep from nodding your head to this one, first to the beat, then to the sentiment.
♦   She’s also unafraid to show her spiritual side, which won’t surprise any fan of “The Rock is My Foundation” from 2012’s Lung of Love. The Lord gets several shout-outs in “Anyway”, a folksy reflection on mortality inspired by Ray’s witnessing the death of a snake at the hands (mouth) of her dog. “The Gig that Matters” is overflowing with Country Christian chestnuts, from callouts to St. Peter to drinking “from the cup of the righteous / While the Devil’s song played in my head”, but she gives the revival a nifty twist in the final lines (she’s still a punk, after all). But “Let the Spirit Take a Hold” is intimate and direct as Ray urges the listener to succumb to mystery and faith, even though “what you call it matters none”. Compare this approach to that of “Strange Fire”, the title track from the Indigo Girls’ earliest recording; the two have similar messages, but while “Strange Fire” burns with verbose defiance and raw emotion, “Let the Spirit” is calm, welcoming, and inclusive — and just as impelling.
♦   Two additional songs are standouts for very different reasons. “Goodnight Tender” is, at first, clunky and heavy-handed as it attempts to combine a Willie Nelson-style character study with the singalong lullaby of a Roy Rogers waltz. But even as the clichés get wonky (“The coyotes are yippie yi yaying / They sing a lonesome tune”), Ray finds simple and honest humanity in her subjects, and her delivery, warm and almost sleepy, transforms the song from a potentially hokey tribute into a transcendent display of empathy.
♦   And empathy is all over “The Hunter’s Prayer”, the remarkable opener. Ray takes a page from Steve Earle and takes on the persona of the titular hunter as he prays, dimly understanding that his own lack of self-worth is what’s driving him to kill. You might expect the PETA-supporter’s role-play to be filled with critique, as it is in Prom’s “Let it Ring”, but Ray sees too deeply to mock her subject. She feels his plight and conveys his pain, and the result is instantly compelling. She’s not entirely without judgment, but neither is the hunter, and what he ultimately prays for — “Give me a love that don’t fade / Oh, let me walk in decency” — is something we all crave and, Ray implies, deserve. Even at its most plaintive, this level of grace and acceptance is the heart of Goodnight Tender.
♦   And through it all there’s Ray, crooning deeply into our ears, never making us work hard to feel her southern heartbeat. She even hands the coda to her protégé Heather McEntire, an act of kindness that feels right and true, especially since McEntire’s “When You Come for Me” is a fine slice of country gospel in its own right. It bears repeating: this ain’t no crossover record. It’s country through and through, the kind of shamelessly rustic music that accompanies lonely drives and summer dusk. Goodnight Tender takes that drive with us; it’s a set of dusty, brutally and beautifully honest tunes that break your heart before healing it again. (http://www.popmatters.com/)
♦   "Amy Ray's progression as a singer/songwriter has taken her up and down all of the switchback trails of the South, from the dive bars of Saturday night to church on Sunday morning, with some coffeehouses and arenas along the way. ''Goodnight Tender, '' her first country album, integrates all of these influences in fresh, surprising ways and testifies to her range and virtuosity as an artist who is always game to follow a thread of melody into new and rugged territory. Amy Ray, half of Grammy-winning songwriting folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls, is set to release this career first. ''Goodnight Tender,'' on her own Georgia-based label, Daemon Records. It's an old school Southern music album that ranges from traditional country and honkytonk to gospel and Appalachian music. Amy recorded live to analog tape last spring at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, NC. The sessions included fiddle, banjo, dobro, pedal steel, guitar, mandolin, bass, and drums gathered round a few microphones to create an authentic, vintage sound. Ray convened a band of old school country players and invited some special guests that cut across genres, including: Justin Vernon, Heather McEntire (Mt. Moriah, Merge Records), members of MegaFaun and vocal appearances by Kelly Hogan and Susan Tedeschi. This collection of 11 Originals by Ray, along with a cover penned by McEntire, is scheduled for release on January 28, 2014."
In french:
♦   Amy Ray (une "Indigo Girl") s'offre la compagnie de quelques jeunes pousses de la scene indie américaine pour ce nouvelle album solo.
Album Review by Thom Jurek;  Score: ****
♦   Though singer/songwriter Amy Ray has flirted with the boundaries of country music via her Americana outings — Prom from 2005 and 2012's Lung of Love in 2012 — until now, she's never attempted to engage in it fully. Goodnight Tender, the Indigo Girl's sixth solo album, collects 12 songs that delve into a rootsy hybrid that uses country as a solid base, but threads elements of bluegrass, folk, country, gospel, and rock through its songs. She produced all but three tunes here, and co-produced the rest with Phil Cook. First single "Oyster and Pearl" is a slow, bittersweet, gospel-tinged number that features a tender Wurlitzer organ and the first of several appearances by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on banjo and vocal harmonies. He plays a mean mandolin and sings backup with Mount Moriah's Heather McEntire on the bluegrass-inspired "The Gig That Matters." Ray's mandolin, along with Adrian Carter's fiddle and Matt Smith's forceful pedal steel, fuel the Cajun-inspired country rock of "Duane Allman" (a tune that also features a stellar harmony vocal from Susan Tedeschi). Ray has always been convincing when it comes to delivering sad love songs. The shuffling "Time Zone," with its weeping pedal steel, the two-stepping honky tonk of "More Pills," and the parlor room waltz "Broken Record" all fit that bill beautifully. The title track with Kelly Hogan singing harmony, "Let the Spirit" with Vernon in that role, and closer "When You Come for Me" — a stirring duet with McEntire — are all gospel-tinged numbers that address mortality head-on without melancholy or morbidity, but a humble acceptance of a grander mystery. In the hands of a lesser songwriter, an album like this could feel constrained or even cloying, but Ray is in full command of her own gifts on Goodnight Tender. Her use of country music as a way of getting these songs across is not only convincing, it's compelling. (http://www.allmusic.com/)
E-mail: daemonstreetteam@gmail.com
Website: http://www.Amy-Ray.com
MySpace: http://www.Myspace.com/amyray
Label: http://www.daemonrecords.com
Press: angie@propellerpublicity.com
Agent: info@highroadtouring.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyRay
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmyRayDaemon

Amy Ray — Goodnight Tender (2014)