Brooklyn folk music sounds like an oxymoron. Alana Amram and the Rough Gems operate within this strange category, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out whether its style is phony or innovative. Snow Shadows: Songs of Vince Martin is a cover album of folk songs written by Martin in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and it leaves room for this debate.
Regardless of her city roots, Amram grew up around the right people. Her father is David Amram, a Beat Generation composer who collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. She’s obviously influenced by these Americana legends, with pedal steel and harmonica licks adorning her renditions and complimenting her unique voice.
But Amram’s musical style is worlds from what her dad’s friends were creating. This difference doesn’t necessarily relate to musical talent, but rather to the mismatched form and content of these covers.
Alana Amram and the Rough Gems
Dive Verdict: 2.5 of 5 stars
The orchestral backdrops in songs like “Fayetteville” and “Summer Wind” make it seem unlikely that Amram has or ever will step foot into a motel in Fayetteville, N.C., let alone write a song about it.
Amram’s voice starkly contrasts these string arrangements in its simplicity and often gives the impression that she doesn’t quite have the patience for the slow rhythms of the folk tunes. Her lyrical style might be more at home — or maybe just more convincingly authentic — in a faster-paced traditional rock band setting.