Amy LaVere, Stranger Me (Archer Records, 2011)

Singer, bassist, and occasional actress Amy LaVere has not had much luck with men.  At least, that's the impression you get from her third album, Stranger Me, which came out this past year.  Starting with the opener "Damn Love Song," Stranger Me goes from one angst-ridden song about breaking up or escaping to another.  You may wind up saying "OK, I get it already" about halfway through the album, but there are at least a few worthy songs on here.

Actually, the biggest selling point of Stranger Me is the strong collective musicianship of LaVere and her supporting cast. David Cousar (guitar), Paul Taylor (drums), and Rick Steff (keyboards) are solid throughout. In particular, Cousar's simple yet very effective 12-string riff on "Damn Love Song" the standout track on the album. The catch is that LaVere has too gentle a voice to match the angst in her lyrics. She appears to have mastered the art of writing an angry breakup song, but she can't always sing it in a way that makes the listener feel what she's feeling.

The album also suffers from its pacing.  The songs slow down after the jazzy "A Great Divide," and don't really pick up after that. The quality on Stranger Me is very front-loaded as a result. Having said that, a few songs earn multiple listens. Amy LaVere does have some talent, and while I wouldn't call this a great record I do think she has room to grow from here.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott

A live performance of "Damn Love Song"

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