Audra Mae and the Almighty Sound / Audra Mae

Audra Mae & the Almighty Sound

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Here's an example of what a great band can bring out in an artist. Audra Mae's 2010 debut full-length was a lovely yet downbeat and melancholy offering that introduced what seemed to be a reflective, rootsy folk singer with a love of all things Appalachian. Two years later she bursts out of the gate on the follow-up's opening salvo, declaring "baby I'm coming/better ready yourself/be looking for me ‘cause I'm the real thing" with the declarative gum-snapping intensity of a Wanda Jackson in her prime. The guitar, bass, and drums lay down an energized backbeat as Mae whips up a sexy lather on a rockabilly rave-up that'll slap you in the face. Kudos to the appropriately named Almighty Sound, who rightly gets co-credit, for goosing her into this whirlwind whose resemblance to the retiring chanteuse of the previous release is but a vague memory. Or perhaps some of the sassy qualities of co-producer/occasional songwriter Deana Carter ("Did I Shave My Legs for This?") rubbed off on her. It's probably a combination of both, but Mae's newfound confidence, especially on swaggering rockers such as the playful "My Little Red Wagon" and the sizzling "Smokin' the Boys" ("taking a drag and making some noise"), driven by a tough walking standup bassline and a reverbed guitar out of the Link Wray handbook makes her a convincing and credible frontwoman who stands toe-to-toe with any leather jacketed tough guy. She even brings a frisky B-52's "Love Shack" rumble to "Jebidiah Moonshine's Friday Night Shack Party," the album's most lighthearted moment. The mood slows somewhat for barroom weeper "Old Italian Love Songs" and the lovely, touching closer "Two Melodies," an example of how effective her voice is in a less aggressive setting. But the majority of these 11 gems are raw, stomping roots rockers played by a terrific band that announces Audra Mae as a talented, inspired newcomer who has largely shaken off the dark, often ominous singer/songwriter introspection and is ready to explode into the spotlight she clearly deserves to bask in.

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