Album Review | Free Dirt | Review by Allan Wilkinson
There appears to be a trend these days to revive the sort of vocal power associated with Margaret Barry, notably Ballyhaise-born Lisa O’Neill and in a way, Amelia Baker, the California-born singer songwriter who performs under the moniker of Cinder Well. No Summer is the singer’s third album and follows her self-titled debut of 2015 and the more recent The Unconscious Echo in 2018 and includes a mixture of original self-penned songs and arrangements of traditional material. The strength in Amelia’s voice is undeniable, a rich delivery evident in each of the songs, notably the almost unaccompanied opener “Wandering Boy”, unaccompanied save for a wearily sparse pipes-like drone.
It would not be difficult to imagine this confident voice in any number of rural Irish pubs in better times. There’s a bleakness embedded in the lyrical content, especially the title song, which is completely devoid of the warm season in both the song’s title and in its feel. It’s melancholy feel is echoed elsewhere on the album, on “Fallen” for example, a reworking of a song that originally appeared on her debut mini-album five years ago. The gently plucked electric guitar strings provides a suitable backdrop for the traditional “The Cuckoo”, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Doors album. It’s all fantastically atmospheric, even the inclusion of a 47 second soundbite that could have sound tracked a deleted scene from Blade Runner, a suitable intro to the bleak closer, “From Behind the Curtain”. Though not a Saturday night party album, No Summer is utterly engaging as a piece of atmospheric melancholia.
Choice Track: No Summer (NSV 507)