Twangy is a good word to describe a guitar sound but it also applies well to the tone and timbre of Americana songwriter Amber Cross. She's a singer whose introduction to music was as part of a choir in a small church in rural Maine where her father preached and her mother played piano.
Recorded in Austin TX and produced by Canadian blues and roots musician Ray Bonneville, the story songs on her second album impress through her unflinching eye for detail and skill in conveying a vivid sense of place.
Her old-timey voice has an authentic earthiness which is perfectly suited to tunes rooted in tradition and set within the landscapes of Northern and Pacific California.
Fellow songwriter Tim O’Brien has praised her “no bullshit style of singing.” and you can easily picture her as a practical and pragmatic cowgirl. She has spoken of preferring to work with her hands which, she says, "pulls the creativity out of me in a way nothing else does.”
The album title reflects this rugged outdoor lifestyle. 'Savage' is a brand of hunting rifle, and the phrase 'Savage on the Downhill' refers to how a tracker should hold a the weapon so as not to bury the barrel into the dirt when climbing down an incline.
There's a bruised and wounded quality to this set of ten songs that are more about couples breaking apart than coming together. This is well exemplified in Pack Of Lies ("Pretending to love does a wicked harm") and Echoes ("Tell me again why we are still together").
In one of the most striking songs, Trinity Gold Mine, she sings from the perspective of a male loner yet the details seem autobiographical. Cross looks and sounds like she doesn't suffer fools gladly and you can imagine the line "they think I'm weird, they're probably right" being a frank admission of how others see her.
Whether by accident of design, Cross is effectively expressing a kinship with other artists of the old and new weird America. In other words, she's in good company.