Autopsy IV note: A couple of nights back I posted a help wanted post on the site in an effort to find some additional (and consistent) contributors. For the time being I am gonna post their posts as guest posts for a little while as we nail down the site since the great spam hack of 2011 and as they prove who will be consistent and who’s gonna decide this bloggery isn’t for them.
This post comes from 9B contributor pledge Mike Ostrov. Lemme know what you guys think.
In her ten-plus years of making music, Athens-Georgia-based singer-songwriter Madeline Adams has never done the easy thing and settled into one sound. I try to tell people that Madeline songs sound like Neil Young and Flannery O’Connor getting drunk at sports bars, writing songs on cocktail napkins, and having Teenage Joni Mitchell sing them with Crazy Horse backing her. But with Black Velvet, her fourth studio full-length (and the inaugural release of Athens label This Will Be Our Summer Records), she’s even harder to pin down than that. Her 2003 debut offering Kissing and Dancing is a treasure chest of folk-punk strummers; she followed with the wintry, heartwrecking Slow Bang in 2007, and in 2009 she let loose her first album with a full backing band—the southern rocker White Flag. Black Velvet features the same band as White Flag (including one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard, Jim Wilson) and an expansion of her southern roots-bop sound.
Lyrically, the album is devoted to small-town lives or the lack thereof, wandering n’ wondering, with lots of animal imagery. But Madeline does it with better storytelling, especially in the song about Johnny Cash working a day job while he rots in heaven. Musically, there’s a dose of sugar in the rock, but the kind found in a sweeter bourbon, the electrifying kind, not the sorority house punch. If the radio still did its job, “Hurry Up Pronto” would be the song of the summer: rollicking, lyrical, with radioactive levels of catchiness. There’s also the trippy “Red Light Bulb,” the stripped-down “Night Owl,” and the devastating “Dollar Beer.” The Black Velvet Band can handle any of these paces, but perhaps they’re best on the shifty numbers “Dead Moon” and “Gather the Feathers” which both change tempo and really highlight the chemistry between Madeline, Jim Wilson, and the rest of the band.
Her voice is ethereal. Her writing substantial. Her band is tight with a capital “IGHT.” Black Velvet has the songs to cool off your summer, and it’ll stick around to thaw you from the chest-out in winter.