23 year-old Amber Digby has been getting plenty of buzz in traditional country circles with her debut album, Music From The Honky Tonk. Amber's country roots run deep. She comes to the genre with an impressive pedigree. Her father, Dennis Digby, spent 20 years as bass player for Loretta Lynn. Her mom, Dee, spent 7 years singing harmony on the Grand Ol' Opry for Connie Smith. Her stepfather is reknowned steel player Dicky Overby and her uncle is legendary country singer, Darrell McCall. It's no wonder then that throughout the album you can hear a strong Connie Smith and Loretta Lynn influence.
Amber put herself in excellent hands with Justin Trevino, who knows more than a little something about traditional country music, at the production helm. Backing Amber in the studio is Dicky Overby (steel guitar), Bobby Flores (fiddle), Levi Mullen (lead guitar), Justin Trevino (bass and rhythm guitar), John Reynolds (drums) and Debra Hurd (piano). They chose a strong and impressive combination of covers and originals for the album.
Music From The Honky Tonks overflows with heartache, misery, cheatin' (with songs that present both sides of the female part of the triangle), sorrow drownin,' regret and resignation. The album's uptempo songs are classic style fast shuffles. "Heart I'm Ashamed Of You" addresses guilt over foolishly falling in love with an unavailable man, "Close Up The Honky Tonks" finds a woman in love with a man who won't settle down, "The One You Slip Around With" deals with a woman wishing she were 'the other' woman to feel the love that was once hers again, "Back Into My Arms" revolves around regret and resignation of a love lost from a man more attracted to the honky tonks and "The Threshold" tells the story of a marriage where love has died.
The tempo change varies nicely throughout the album, and there are a few slower shuffles. "Country Lovin' Night" opens with a reference to twin fiddles in this heartache tale of a woman looking to take the first steps in healing a broken heart. "It's So Easy To Forgive Him" looks at a woman who struggles with her weakness of not having the strength to walk away from her love for her cheating husband, "Your Still On My Mind" finds a woman drowning her sorrows trying to get over, but can't get past, a broken heart and "Foolin' " tells of a woman who didn't realize what she had until it after it was gone. A hit for Loretta Lynn, "Somebody, Somewhere," conveys the aching loneliness of a woman who can't quite understand why she's all alone and left longing for love.
"If You See My Baby" is a waltzing heartache weeper about feelings of loneliness and still carrying a torch for a lover who's moved on. The aching "Here I Am" and "Three Years" both portray the pain and heartache of a woman that no matter how hard she tries and realizes her relationship is over, she can't let it go. "Just Get Up And Close The Door" is a gorgeous ballad, though in a more contemporary vein than the rest of the albums' songs, that tackles the longing of 'the other woman' for her lover to prove his love and stay with her.
Amber Digby has a wonderful voice that's strikingly similar to a young Lorrie Morgan. As wonderful a vocalist as she is though, on some of the uptempo songs, the youth in her voice comes through in spots and lacks the vocal maturity that a few of those songs call for, whereas a young Connie Smith and Loretta Lynn had a feistiness in theirs and Amber's contemporaries like Heather Myles, Danni Leigh and even Mandy Barnett have a ballsiness, while Neko Case and Kelly Hogan possess a world-weary depth to their vocals. In those spots, it seems as though she's concentrating too hard on trying to perfectly replicate a style and occasionally misses the mark emotionally. Still, it's a very minor quibble because in the end she's able to compensate more than adequately through her command of phrasing and grasp of the overall vocal style.
At the tender age of 23, she's just finding her voice and vocal maturity will undoubtedly come naturally with time and experience. Amber's real strengths right now are in the slower shuffles and ballads which she nails with authority. She seems more at ease and her voice drops down to a slightly lower register that makes her sound older than her years, and she really digs down deep, making you believe she's lived a life of heartache and pain.
The overall sound is more circa 50s fiddle/steel driven honky tonk, reminiscent of early Ray Price rather than the 60s string driven "Nashville Sound." Not to take anything away from the amazing talent of Amber Digby, but Justin Trevino really ups the ante and makes this talented young lady soar with some of the most incredible instrumental arrangements and performances heard in decades, especially the breathtaking steel-fiddle interplay between Dicky Overby and Bobby Flores.
Chalk up a strong victory for the often overlooked women of country music. We have a new heavy weight contender on deck and ready to take her place in the spotlight by the name of Amber Digby. Music From The Honky Tonks is a true gem that fans of traditional honky tonk music will relish from beginning to end.
Standout Tracks: "Country Lovin' Night," "If You See My Baby," "Here I Am Again," "It's So Easy To Forgive Him," "Somebody, Somewhere," "Three Years," "Your Still On My Mind," "Foolin'," "Just Get Up And Close The Door"