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Amy Millan - Masters of the Burial

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 7 / 1 / 2010

Amy Millan - Masters of the Burial
Label: Arts and Crafts
Format: CD


Outstanding second solo alabum from Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Amy Millan, who is also a member of Stars and Broken Social Scene

'Masters of the Burial' is the second solo album from Canadian singer-songwriter Millan but the first, I have to admit, that I have lent an ear to. Aware, as all other reviewers are it seems, of her work with both Stars and Broken Social Scene , I actually passed over on Amy’s debut solo album, ‘Honey From The Tombs’ from 2006. Purely because at the time her debut was released it seemed to be everywhere and I thought it was just going to be more of the same Amy Millan I had heard in the bands she had previously been involved in. Well, I was wrong, as if ‘Honey From The Tombs’ had half the appeal and just a quarter of songs of the quality of the eleven tracks on ‘Masters Of The Burial’ then it still would have been one of the best albums of 2006. The fact is that on this latest offering Amy has never sounded better; without hearing that debut of course I can’t compare this latest collection to that album but the music Amy makes here shows a completely different side to the talents she displayed on her recordings with both Stars and Social Broken Scene. The album opens with ‘Bruised Ghosts’, one of seven Millan originals here, and like every song on ‘Masters Of The Burial’ the tune is immediately likeable. But it’s that voice, that honey-dripping innocence that fills every line in every song that will make even the hardest man weaken and be captivated by Amy’s voice. I am not the first to be taken by the way Amy mixes vulnerability with a little muscle and that’s one of the factors that make her vocals so appealing and so different. I am a self-confessed sucker for those little-girl-lost vocals that have embraced many a good song over the years, but unfortunately it’s been a sound that so many female vocalists have been using that it’s lost much of its charm now. Where there is definitely innocence to Amy’s vocals and they really are honey-soaked, this is not the sound of a girl looking for direction or playing on that innocence. In many ways it’s the sound of all those cute lost girls once they’ve toughened up a little. The problem with many female singers who tend not to belt out a song but have smooth vocals that don’t sound like they have been subjected to years of drinking whiskey and smoking is that they lose some of their charm after a while. It’s like too much sugar not being good for you. Despite Amy’s honey-drenched vocals these songs lose none of their appeal over repeated plays. It’s also significant that while the covers Amy has chosen for this album include such strong choices as Richard Hawley’s ‘Run for Me’, from his ‘Lowedges’ album and Sarah Harmer’s ‘Old Perfume’ (from her 'Weeping Tile' period and if you thought the version on ‘Valentino’ was good then wait until you hear Amy Millan flesh out the song and turn it into something even more beautiful) and a version of ‘I Will Follow You into the Dark’ originally by Deathcab For Cutie that again throws a completely different light on the song, that Amy’s own songs still manage to steal the show. The sparse ‘Lost Compass’ is a prime example, albeit a far too short one, of just how a voice as outstanding as Amy’s can carry a song. Her vocal performance on that song is simply breathtaking. ‘Bound’ is proof that few of her contemporaries can write let alone sing a song so rooted in the country tradition as well as Amy can and coming from a Emmylou Harris fan that’s some recommendation. But that opening trio of songs, the originals ‘Bruised Ghosts’ and ‘Low Sail’ plus Harmer’s ‘Old Perfume’ must rank as the best introduction to not only Amy’s work but as the best beginning to any album for some time. The melody to ‘Low Sail’ is simply superb and coupled with Amy’s vocals it’s a marriage made in heaven. Maybe the last words about this outstanding album should be those of Amy herself; “This record is the dark of the night…the time of night when all we have tried to bury comes back to us masked in midnight mind stories”. Now to check out ‘Honey From The Tombs’, better late than never.

Track Listing:-
1 Bruised Ghosts
2 Low Sail
3 Old Perfume
4 Towers
5 Day To Day
6 Bury This
7 Finish Line
8 Run For Me
9 I Will Follow You Into the Dark
10 Lost Compass
11 Bound

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