Another strong release from southwestern Virginia is On The Corner, the debut solo project from Amber Collins, who fronts the Galax-based No Speed Limit. Much of the band assists her on this album, but most prominent is guitarist Josh Pickett who co-produces and contributed 5 new songs to the CD.
Amber is a strong singer, in the process of developing a distinctive style all her own. Her voice is pitched high, closer to a true soprano than has been common in bluegrass of late, and it makes for a sound refreshingly outside the modern grass mainstream. She is given to “Reba-like” vowel sounds, another trait we hear only rarely in the bluegrass realm.
You can hear what I mean (on both counts) in the opening track, a reworking of a classic folk ballad.
Darling Corey: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/darlin_corey.mp3]
The bulk of the CD was recorded with No Speed Limit: Josh Pickett on guitar, Josh Underwood on banjo, Duane Compton on mandolin and Dustin Pyrtle on bass. Jody King guests on banjo as does Ryan Blevins on mandolin and Jacob Eller on bass.
The one track that really stands out – and is likely to get Amber a great deal of attention – is Rosemary, which tells of a true love that endures beyond war and death. It’s a special song, written by Josh Pickett, and Amber agrees that it is the album’s high point, while noting the oddity of singing a song so beyond her own experience.
“Neither Josh or I can relate directly to this story lyrically, and I always try to relate to any song I’m singing. The song is really unique, and we were shocked that it came out so well. I guess we just put so much thought into arranging it, and worked so hard to relate with the lyrics… and it really paid off!”
It’s a fine tribute both to Pickett for his fine songwriting and lovely guitar work, and to Collins who does a marvelous job interpreting the song. Let’s hope it gets the recognition it deserves.
“Josh and I have been playing together so long, and we always want to play what expresses our personality. That’s what I wanted to demonstrate with this record. And I think we did; it shows who we are.”
You can order the CD from the band’s web site, and radio programmers can request a promo copy by email.
Amber tells us that No Speed Limit is about to start on a new band project, and said that it was possible that a couple of tracks from On The Corner might be included. Perhaps it will also contain their version of Shady Grove, which they recorded for YouTube.