Amy LaVere has the kind of voice that you can’t help but notice and pay attention to. It’s not that it’s a perfectly polished gem of a voice, but rather that its flaws and nuances make you wonder just what it is that she’s really thinking.
Her last album, Stranger Me, was released in July 2011 and follows four others. In 2012, LaVere and singer-songwriter Shannon McNally recorded Chasing the Ghost together — a partnership that was brought about through their mutual mentor, Memphis producer Jim Dickinson.
On Stranger Me, LaVere plays upright bass and sings — and, oh, the stuff she sings about! Her subject matter would make Nick Cave proud … disposing of a body in “Red Banks” (maybe the former lover she sings about killing in her previous album, on “Killing Him”). “Damn Love Song” is a love song written for someone as she’s walking out the door to leave. Asked repeatedly when she will write this partner a love song, she spits, “Right now. I’ll do it right now. Here’s your damn love song.” When a voice that is normally sweet and almost girl-like cries out with that much ferocity, you wonder just what she’s actually capable of. And she covers Captain Beefheart’s “Candle Mambo,” matching the intensity of the original.
And just what does she mean by “stranger me”? On the cover of the album she’s wearing an eye mask and looking enigmatic. Does she mean stranger, as in odd? Or as in distant and unknown? There’s a little bit of all of this in Stranger Me, and I have a feeling that seeing her live will only help to deepen the mystery.
Amy LaVere plays at 8 pm Tuesday, June 25, at Axe and Fiddle, (21+ show); $5.