“Holding Patterns” – Amanda Rheaume

4 stars (out of 5)


holding-patterns-scrollerWell, we’ve got to the last of the 2016 crop and what a way to finish. Amanda Rheaume’s “Holding Patterns” is a velvet punch of an album. On the surface it’s a very polished and musically accomplished piece of work with more than a nod in the direction of Nashville, but when you dig a little deeper, it mines some deep lyrical seams. With a variety of musical textures, the element holding everything together is Amanda’s pure, clear and beautifully controlled voice delivering across the musical spectrum from the quiet pathos of “All that You Need” to the raucous energy and amped-up blues harp of “Blood From a Stone”, the album’s Alanis Morissette “You Oughta Know” moment, which references that song in the lyrics.

I’m not normally a fan of albums using a lot of co-writers, but Amanda Rheaume has made it work here, possibly because she went into the project with a very clear idea of the album’s message and every element is harnessed in that cause. There’s a sense of loss that pervades the album, relating to the death of a friend at a tragically young age and the end of a troubled long-term relationship, but that’s what performers do; they make sense of the chaos around them by turning it into beautiful music. Interwoven with sense of loss is a strand of identification with place and family in the true story of a distant relative who survived a landslide at the age of eighteen months (“The Day the Mountain Fell”) and the use of her grandfather’s phrase “Wolf of Time” about the dangers of allowing life to happen around you without taking time to do the things that are really important.

And even after all this, there’s still an ace in the hole. The hauntingly gorgeous “Red Dress” seduces you into falling on love on a musical level while delivering a powerful message about victim-blaming in the cases of indigenous women who are murdered or go missing. The power of the message is amplified by the steady, matter of fact delivery. The album is a triumph of subtle musical settings for historical stories, folk wisdom and the difficulties of human relationships, all delivered by a perfect voice.

“Holding Patterns” is released on Friday December 2 and Amanda Rheaume will be touring the UK in January/February 2017.

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