On “Calliope Calling,” the second track of Amber deLaurentis’ latest effort, Hey Sadie, the Jersey-born, Burlington resident invokes the name of that most distinguished of the nine Muses. Greek for “beautiful voice,” Calliope is an apt invocation; deLaurentis’ confident vocal performance on her debut studio album sounds something more than just secularly inspired.
In addition to mythological melioration, deLaurentis has some worldly help, most notably from her long-time friend and songwriting collaborator, Sarah Blue. Like a femme version of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, deLaurentis and Blue craft rockin’, soulful, piano-driven tunes that leave little choice but to draw deserving comparisons to Carole King.
Though deLaurentis may not have hit her full stride yet — there’s no “It’s Too Late” or “I Feel the Earth Move” on Hey Sadie — it’s hard to imagine she’s far from it. The catchy “Upside Down,” with its tastefully arranged string section and sumptuously harmonized refrain, should have listeners scrambling for the “repeat” button. “Black & Blue” could have easily been nestled between “Over My Head” and “Rhiannon” on a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits album. Such is the edgy, love-centric poetry of deLaurentis and Blue, tactfully buoyed by their band’s subtle delivery.
Of the latter, enough cannot be said. Band regulars Dave Anstine (bass), Mark Tucker (guitar and steel guitar) and Mark Schreiber (drums) are joined by a number of heavyweight Vermont guest musicians, including guitar guru Paul Asbell, pedal steel wizard Gordon Stone, organist Chuck Eller and guitarist Steve Blair. Jazz impresario Tom Cleary — deLaurentis’ husband — chips in with horn arrangements. Credit all involved for playing no more and no less than each song requires, allowing deLaurentis — the album’s real star — to shine through unobstructed.
Instead of yet another overproduced album saturated with superfluous strings, overbearing brass and just-for-the-sake-of-it solos, Hey Sadie comes off as effortlessly professional, hinting that deLaurentis is much further along in her promising musical career than her current two-album discography would suggest.
Amber deLaurentis celebrates the release of her new album at the FlynnSpace this Thursday, and unveils her new band, which includes drummer Caleb Bronz, Cleary, Blair and Stone. If Calliope comes a-callin’ for live performances like she did in the recording studio, the show should be well worth attending.