Amber Cross was born to stir the emotions. That can be the only conclusion for anyone lucky (or smart) enough to witness her delightfully working through her 19 song set in the intimate setting of the upstairs lounge of The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen. Over the course of almost two and a half hours, aided by her husband James Moore on guitar, mandolin, harmonica and backing vocals, she enchanted the audience, not only with her wonderful music but also with a natural born ability to tell the stories that set the scene and provided the backdrop for most of her songs.
From the first few bars of her opening song ‘Leaving Again’, from her last album ‘Savage on the Downhill’, until the last notes faded from the encore of ‘Midnight Chorus’, Cross took the audience on a roller coaster of emotion. From the deep pain of a relationship under immense strain as a couple come to terms with being empty-nesters on ‘Echoes’ – “The kids we raised became our pride and joy love, For eighteen years our lives were not our own, Tell me again just why are we still together, Lying next to you I never felt so alone,” to ‘Tracey Joe’ which tells the story of a ten year old kid who, to escape the sufferings of his mother’s poor choice in men, routinely got to ride on the footplate of the train from Duluth, Minnesota to Winnipeg.
Born in the small town of Charlotte in the northeastern US state of Maine, Cross grew up surrounded by gospel music. Her father was a preacher in a small-town church and her mother played piano and a slight gospel feel isn’t that far beneath the surface in many of her songs. This is not gospel music though, her style is much broader, with tinges of country, and modern folk all underpinned by a truly captivating voice that has slight echoes of both Iris Dement as well as one of her musical idols, Nanci Griffiths. Don’t let that comparison mislead you though; Amber Cross is very much her own woman as her voice, delicate at times, can soar with easy power and immense passion when required. She has embarked upon this first UK tour not only with her husband James, but also with her two children and her mum – a fact not lost on James as he jokingly bemoaned the debris and devastation this family tour group had unleashed on their rental car as they toured the length and breadth of the UK from venues as far apart as London, North East Scotland and Devon. For a first UK visit, they have certainly put a lot of miles on the clock.
Having never done a tour like this before, Cross confided to the audience that at one point before heading off into the unknown that was the UK, she worried how well she would cope with a tour such as this and whether she would get bored singing the same songs night after night. To counter that, she has no fixed set list, relying instead on her mood at any given point and her instincts as to how the audience is reacting. That spontaneity has certainly kept it fresh and the sheer joy and emotion (there’s that word again!) that poured from each song was clear for all to see. Thanks must go to Almost Blue Promotions for bringing Amber Cross to Aberdeen. It was simply a superb gig and hopefully it’s not long before Amber Cross gets more recognition. She deserves it.