Review: Alana Amram And The Rough Gems – Snow Shadows: Songs Of Vince Martin

It is testament to a good songwriter when their songs can remain relevant even decades after they were originally written and recorded. Yet, equally, credit is also due to those artists who are able to take these songs and reinvigorate them for today’s audience.

Alana Amram, accompanied by the textured sounds of The Rough Gems, looks to recreate the works of the oft under rated folk musician Vince Martin, on the record Snow Shadows: Songs of Vince Martin.

The germinal groove of the album opener Fayetteville truly sets the tone for what is to come as a string arrangement is met by acoustic tones in a fantastic blend of musical textures. The promises of these earliest of stages are further enhanced as Amram wraps her unique vocal upon the delectably timeless lyrics. ‘Baby, are you thinking about me?’ is purred from a voice that is both satisfyingly smooth while maintaining an underlying grit that harks back to a previous age.

Catch Me I’m Falling is a fabulous offering that emphasises the tonal roots of the album as a whole with the powerful sounds of both pedal steel and harmonica working in tandem to fine effect. The following Summer Wind somewhat finds itself bogged down beneath the wealth of string arrangements that accompany it, however Joe Panther finds the right mix of darkly brooding violins with lyrics of environmental destruction to form a truly stand out track.

It is perhaps telling that during Joe Panther, Amram is capable of giving this set of songs, written by someone else, a sense of meaning and purpose. It can be so easy to merely imitate the original version however Alana Amram manages to make each track a vehicle of originality.

The gradual build up of If the Jasmine Don’t Get You… You Know the Bay Breeze Will proves a powerful platform for an impending crescendo of noise that can’t help but leave you struck. It is through the beautifully powerful Snow Shadows that Amram provides a delicate, stripped back approach that underlines the impact of her voice.

During the album’s closing track Honest Joe, the record goes full circle as Vince Martin lends his voice to a song that is seemingly over before it’s even begun – coming in at little over a minute long. Martin’s input is an expression of the impact Alana Amram has managed to have upon his songs as it is easy to forget that this is an album made up of re-imagined covers.

Perhaps at times the string arrangements sit too prominently within the mix, however at others Alana Amram manages to encapsulate the need to maintain links with what has come before. The fact that such a promising record has stemmed from the songs of Vince Martin shows that he did not get his due when he reached his most prominent status during the 1960’s. But ultimately the praise for Amram lies in the fact that she has reinvigorated material that could have been left to sit forever as a footnote in the depths of history.