Marybeth D’Amico – Heaven Hell, Sin and Redemption

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

Marybeth D’Amico certainly wasn’t born with the songwriting bug, despite growing up in a musical environment that included harmonizing with her siblings to records by Peter, Paul and Mary or Crosby Stills and Nash.  Nor I assume did she spend her formative years before the mirror with hairbrush in hand mimicking Patsy Cline in the hopes of becoming a star, choosing instead the alternative route of journalism, working as an editor of an Amsterdam-based magazine.  When D’Amico found herself at a loose end after her editing career came to an abrupt end, the journalist, now a wife and mother of two, picked up a guitar and began writing songs, influenced in part by the likes of Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna and Kathleen Edwards.  It has to be said that Heaven, Hell, Sin and Redemption, Marybeth’s first full length album, follows an unpromising start. Her EP Waiting to Fly (2006) was hardly the debut this burgeoning talent deserved, a handful of demo worthy songs marred by shaky vocals and a wobbly falsetto.  This, the full length follow up however, is surprisingly fresh with a vocal delivery of a seasoned player.  Bradley Kopp’s production goes a long way toward ensuring attention be paid to and ears be pricked for a singer songwriter who could now very well have found her performing feet.  Now living in Germany, the American singer songwriter has written an impressive selection of fine songs and along with the help of an array of trustworthy musicians including Lloyd Maines on dobro and pedal steel, Richard Bowden on violin, David Webb on keyboards and Paul Pearcy on drums together with Kopp’s guitar and bass, these songs pave the way forward for D’Amico.  With a tasteful arrangement including Webb’s delicious Hammond, “A Love Story” is classic Romeo and Juliet storytelling with our protagonists caught up in the usual small town religious paranoia, whilst “Ohio” tells a convincing tale of what it’s possibly like to be unjustly banged up, reflecting on the past with particularly bleak future prospects.  With a cast of extraordinary characters, some real and some imagined, D’Amico paints a vivid social landscape in classic storytelling style and in doing so, has hopefully found her voice.