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AMY ANNELLE: press

"THE CIMARRON BANKS" REVIEWS

Folk music should speak about its moment in time and to the people of its time. “The Cimarron Banks” does just this. Though this album is traditionally “folk music” in many ways, Amy Annelle brings a modern sensibility and relevancy to her latest album.

The album starts off with the very pretty, open-tuned, “The Cimarron Banks” which spotlights her breathy, warbling voice. Though the song has a familiarity about it, the occasional dissonance adds a new dimension and emotional texture.

What I have come to enjoy about Amy Annelle’s songwriting is that her melodies feel comfortable and controlled, without being overly predictable: there are surprises in this album worth discovering. Things like the skillful (and sometimes ambient) slide guitar and the slightest impression of a whistle through her teeth give this album its charm.

“The Hellhound’s Address” lifts the mood and makes loose and lazy vocals sound incredibly pretty. Annelle’s delivery can be mumbled or even squeaky, though at the same time she is deliberate and accurate- sharp-shooting notes out of the air. The effect is a unique voice that sounds as though it was built for musical storytelling (think Chrissie Hynde or Patti Smith). But she’s no one-trick pony. Amy brings a richer vocal quality to songs like “Harden Your Blades” which is a sparse, spooky song with haunting overtones and dark vocal harmonies.

Though there are no drums, the extra instrumentation keeps the album from feeling sleepy or thin. Her use of galloping guitars, handclaps, piano, strings (and even tuba) give the album its fullness.

This is certainly a folk album for a new generation, as she doesn’t shy away from incorporating effects like her fuzzed out vocals in “Miss It More Than You Know How” or the old-timey reverb feel in “Ode To A Lone Bird”. Even with these modern embellishments, this album is essentially true to the folk genre and successfully walks the bittersweet line that keeps it from becoming something else.
- TranscendentaLIST (Aug 8, 2010)

#1 Amy Annelle, The Cimarron Banks
(High Plains Sigh)


A genuine American visionary strikes again, this time with smoldering allegorical heft. Annelle tempers the profound with flecks of the profane, warping timeless compositions with modern forthrightness and frailty. The sound is rustic and raw but with warm production and some studio flourishes as well, amounting to a haunting, heartening, and harrowingly human folk event. There’s just a lot going on here, and it’s an accessible complexity that’s sure to endure.

Amy Annelle
The Cimarron Banks
(High Plains Sigh, 2010)

Scattered around the US and Mexico there exists a genus of perennial wildflower called Datura, a sibling of the tamer and more decorative Angel’s Trumpet, so named for its horn-shaped blossom. Datura can don a variety of colors and can spread across wastelands, and is at once a toxic hallucinogen and a potential component of heretic love potions. The same could be said for The Cimarron Banks, if only its nightmare weren’t based in the actual decay that underscores the sprawl in which we live. And, as it turns out, the album shares the further floral characteristic of blooming only at night, as the seventh Amy Annelle LP emerges from the darkness with minimal media fanfare, leafy, fragrant and spectacular though it may be.

Like most hallucinogens, the brilliant colors of The Cimarron Banks are harbingers of a kind of subconscious understanding: A love story at the surface, which speaks allusively to the dying land upon which the songwriter walks, and so do we. At the risk of sacrificing a believable level of critical objectivity, The Cimarron Banks is as devastating via headphone as it is through a boombox that rides shotgun with the windows down, as it would be if it appeared only in print. Conceptually cohesive and meticulously produced, this High Plains Sigh release belongs in the Library of Congress, but not just because it was mastered by a guy that’s also mastered Woody Guthrie (that is, Joe Gastwirt, of Guthrie, Hendrix, and Nanci Griffith achievement). Embedded in the lovelorn tunefulness on top is an American ghost story, civilization itself being the protagonist. Musically, in keeping with her earlier work, Annelle’s stuff here does fall under the umbrella of folk, though it’s by no means traditional folk. Neither is it “New Weird,” nor anything of the most current, conventional indie variety. Take “Forever in Between (The Warrior’s Misfortune)”, its visceral, determined acoustic guitar contrasting with immaculate passages of abstract atmospherics, its barely-there bass girding the gravitas and coming on stronger towards the end. Part Appalachian dirge, part dream-folk, its only percussion comes in the form of Flamenco palmas (hand-claps). This leads like poetry into “Miss it More Than You Know How”, which pulls you out by the ear and rocks as solidly as a classic rock anthem, powered only by Annelle’s singular voice and brawny but acoustic guitar, nary an overdub to speak of.

Lyrically, songs bloom with open-hearted, lustful vulnerability and a harrowing naturalistic solitude that sweep the listener right along through the songwriter’s warm darkness, with or without the deft poetic foils she employs, sometimes accessibly, sometimes obliquely. “Wounded Man (Pellam’s Blues)”, for example, places its woes-of-addiction despair in a context relating to Arthurian legend (based on the title), with a drinking-song swagger and mariachi brass accompaniment that also has the ring of a New Orleans funeral. “Go out back and dig yourself a simple grave,” Annelle sings. “The demon’s riding on your back and he’s making you a slave,” though substance abuse is not necessarily the only problem afoot. A few songs later, “Ode to the Lone Bird”, in the midst of its tale of unrequited desire, artfully peppers its own titular metaphor with what can be read as either licentious frankness or one of the more playful bits of wanton this side of Will Oldham (“I know you’ve got a big cock / ‘cuz your girlfriend’s got a big mouth”). The song’s bird imagery is also part of the album’s romantic narrative, and can be read as referring back to “The Hellhound’s Address,” wherein two lovers meet, make promises and take flight. While I know it’s a flagrant removal from context, as the proud caretaker of two docile pit bulls I take special pleasure in the line, “Oh, hellhound, lay down, you ain’t as bad as you seem.” It’s the most upbeat of any song on the album, bouncing forward on twinkling piano and some buoyant rhythm guitar.

The Cimarron Banks is both profound and self-contained; otherworldly and rich as rainforest loam, brushed though it may be by desert brooms. Its release date may have been somewhat indistinct, however there’s no ambiguity at all to the level of talent, precision and passion manifest in Amy Annelle’s increasingly rewarding catalog. If there’s not a ticker-tape parade or a hootenanny or at least a network of intimate bonfires to herald her next release, well then I’m not sure why I’m writing about music in public at all.

H. Wyman - Crawdaddy (Dec, 2010)

Deep, dark and demanding dreams from the heart of America

Fans of quirks (sic), strangeness and charm should look no further than Amy Annelle’s seventh album. With a voice that recalls a slightly less unhinged Mary Margaret O’Hara she sings a dozen songs inspired by “No Man’s Land”, an area in the American High Plains full of emptiness and untouched badlands and thus a ripe blank slate for the visions Annelle projects on to it. Describing the pieces here as an “elemental love story” Annelle delights in allusion and allegory to describe a place where a “raptor with no cry” and “Carrion Dreams” and the lover central to this song cycle is...a “fox-fire with a falcon’s grace”.

This is a haunting album that is impossible to “get” on the first listen or two, no matter how hard you concentrate. The lyrics are simply too dense, too demanding of interpretation and thought to reveal their secrets so cheaply. Pretentious it isn’t though, and the sparse instrumentation, whose purveyors include Paul Brainard and Ian McLagan, lets Annelle and her dreams take centre stage. A challenging but rewarding listen.

J'ai hésité un peu, je voulais la garder juste pour moi, mais je me suis finalement dit que se serait criminel de ne pas vous en parler.
Cela fait environ treize ans qu'Amy Annelle enregistre soit sous son propre nom, soit avec le groupe The Places, sans compter de très nombreuses collaborations, j'étais pourtant passé à côté, ne me doutant pas une seule seconde de ce que je manquais. Jusqu'au jour où j'ai lancé la lecture de The Cimarron Banks (2010) sans trop savoir à quoi m'attendre, dans ce cas les surprises n'en sont que plus belles. Amy Annelle est une songwriter incroyable et a un sens inné du folk et de l'americana. Et cette voix !
- ListenSeeFeel (Aug 20, 2010)

Amy Annelle - The Cimarron Banks: A High Plains Emanation (CD, High Plains Sigh, Folk/pop)
So many folks in the twenty-first century claim to be going back to their roots...and the word "Americana" is thrown around like an ugly unwanted pig baby. Folks tired of all the generic wannabes will find refreshing relief in the music of 
Amy Annelle. This enchanting lady writes and records music that is wonderfully absorbent and resilient. In many cases, her tunes remind us of material from old 78 RPM records. She has a strange warbly voice that is slightly distant and strangely personable. On the first spin we really liked The Cimarron Banks. A dozen spins later we found that we had fallen head-over-heels in love with Annelle's peculiar sound. Nothing but keepers here...but particular standout tracks include "The Cimarron Banks," "The Hellhound's Address," "Carrion Dream," "Forever In-Between," and "Streaking With The Lightning." Well worth seeking out. TOP PICK

- babysue (Jul 30, 2010)

Wedged between traditional folk, Western balladry, and cheeky singer-songwriting, Cimarron Banks is the soundtrack before a script. Produced by Craig Ross, it's presented in song-cycle style, befitting a lonesome and unpredictable nature. Amy Annelle's lovely voice carries like the Texas wind throughout, evocative lyrics begging further examination.

Amy Annelle—one of my favorite singer/songwriters—has just released The Cimarron Banks, her seventh full-length album (counting her work with The Places). Now, the “singer/songwriter” tag doesn’t do much for me—chalk it up to seeing one to many folksters strumming away on their acoustic guitar in one coffeehouse or another—but Annelle is not your typical singer/songwriter.

True, her music is centered on just her and her guitar, but there’s something almost psychedelic about it. Her songs go down paths, melodically and otherwise, that you never quite expect, and they’re full of little bits of interesting lo-fi sonic detritus (e.g., the ambient drones that ebb and flow throughout “Forever In Between”). At the same time, her lovely voice imbues her songs with a warmth and charm that keeps them from drifting too far afield.

The Cimarron Banks is now available on High Plains Sigh. Listen to three tracks from the album on Amy Annelle’s MySpace page.
Jason Morehead - Opus (Jun 1, 2010)

The first time I heard the songs “Harden Your Blades” and “Wake Up, Little Dark Eyes” was at a live show I’d asked a few people, including Amy, to play at the last minute because of a touring band canceling. Amy showed up with just her guitar and hearing those two songs for the first time will be forever burned into my memory as one of the most amazing moments of live music I’ve ever experienced. My jaw literally dropped when I heard them. Of course, the rest of the set was great too but those two songs always stuck in my mind, so when I heard Amy had a new album coming out I immediately got excited at the possibility of being able to hear those songs whenever I wanted. Sure enough, they’re on The Cimarron Banks and those songs, as well as every single other track on this album, do not disappoint in the slightest. The album is a sort of disjointed but continuous narrative based around waking life, dreaming, and the space in between. The music is filled with the spirit of old-time country and folk music but is still forward-looking and creative, and not the slightest bit stylized or imitative. The lyrics are thoughtful and powerful, the songwriting is varied, accomplished, and interesting, and as a whole is one of the most well thought-out and beautifully executed records of folk music I’ve ever heard. I simply can’t overstate how much I enjoy this album and it’s a tragedy that more people haven’t heard it yet.

Nick Hennies (Jan 1, 2011)

Amy Annelle is a folk singer with a keen ear for American music traditions and their eccentric variations. She's a troubadour who vividly captures the strange and dark sides of the country and its inhabitants. This is the US as a haunted place. Her songs evoke lullabies and murder ballads, acoustic blues and campfire songs, deserts and mountains. She sings to birds, rivers, ghosts and lightning; sings about seers, seekers, and doomsayers. It's lonely music, but beautifully so. In one song she asks the musical question, "what now to do but stay up all night / chasing ghosts that fade in the light?"

Jack Rabid - Big Takeover (Feb 10, 2011)