Amy Edwards – Ghosts and Saints (2014)

Left to her own devices after a band breakup, Austin-based singer-songwriter Amy Edwards found herself stuck between her melancholy over what had been and her hopefulness for what might come next. Ghosts and Saints, at times hard-eyed and at others remarkably open, is stronger for that essential dichotomy.

She purrs through the opening “Sweet Liberty” with the whispery danger of Shirley Manson, while a tough backing group featuring Dwight Baker and George Reiff tear around with an appropriately crunchy attitude behind her. Embedded in all of this, however, are these deeply personal inflections — signs that there will be more to the five-song Ghosts and Saints than angry round houses. It’s not clear what she’s running from within the context of this lyric, but Edwards — who wrote all of the songs here, with a few assists from husband Kevin Green — isn’t leaving herself behind.

It’s an important distinction: Attitude without emotional commitment might make for a visceral response over the course of a song or two. But a fully formed statement, it does not make. Edwards understands the difference, as the title song — a more pop-focused construction — quickly confirms: Edwards sings with an open-hearted majesty, leaving behind the dark mysteries of her opening track on Ghosts and Saints.

The results are as joyful as they are fearless — and they make a return to the angular rock of her tell-off “Permanent Red” resonate even more completely. When Edwards’ character packs her things (maybe because she’s sick of things, maybe because she’s simply bored) and hits the bricks, it’s an empowering, “Brass in Pocket”-type moment.

“Red Licorice” comes roaring out, then, like a balled up fist. Edwards shifts, at the drop of a lipstick tube, back into her ass-kicking opening-tune persona — leading, inexorably, to the song’s payoff moment: The punky riff gives way to an approach with the lyric that actually sounds like a cat’s purr. Somewhere, Chrissie Hynde is smiling.

You might have expected Ghosts and Saints to conclude with an exhalation, something meant to soften the impact of everything that came before. Edwards is having none of it. Instead, she finishes with a sizzling blues rocker called “Broken Things,” one that pushes her from one end of the emotional (and vocal) register to the other. As with the rest of this rangy, utterly compelling EP, Edwards pulls it off.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.

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