April 2008

Amanda Shaw - Pretty Runs Out
Rounder 11661-3257-2
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***

Amanda Shaw’s Pretty Runs Out is a promising debut. A talented singer, Shaw also plays competent fiddle, writes songs, and leads her band, the Cute Guys, through a variety of rock styles. Her liner notes -- thanking God, lots of family members and friends, even "Christian Dior for making me look beautiful" -- smack of the young generation's embracing Barak Obama’s presidential candidacy: optimistic, earnest, civic-minded. But there’s no topical material here except, surprisingly, "Garden of Eden" -- from the 1971 New Riders of the Purple Sage debut album.

The title song, opening the album, is the best, with the most specific lyrics. That and four others are by Shaw and co-writers. As in much pop-rock, most of the songs are on the vague side. Shaw’s singing voice is rich and suggests considerable power that hasn’t all kicked in yet. The band rocks pretty well -- everyone skilled, no one amazing. Three of the 13 tracks are instrumental -- jig-type stuff done with full rock band. Not bad tunes, but none of the instruments runs wild -- the expectation for this kind of track.

Deciphering the words is sometimes difficult (there are no lyrics in the notes), not because of the recording quality or mix, which suffice. You hear Shaw above the backup, where she belongs, but she doesn’t always enunciate clearly enough. There’s so much music "out there" that upon figuring out the words, I want them to say more than most of these do. Hard work and dedication went into Pretty Runs Out. Shaw and the Guys have it in them to deliver more serious content in future efforts.