Pretty Muse, Set Sail, Kitchen Radio, The Bells Ring On
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Nov. 20, 2009
Amy Atchley entertained local audiences in the pop trio Fabu while attending the University of Texas in the 1990s and has since put her pure voice to successful use in commercial ventures. Her tender heart still lies in the crafting of delicate, folk-flavored pop with a distinctly modern edge, however, as evidenced by her latest, Pretty Muse (Cherrywood Records). No overkill on this 7-song CD, just the sweetness of Atchley's lovely singing, yearning lyrics, and wistful melodies ("Orphan Girl," "Just for a Minute"). The eye patch in the drawing of Carley Wolf on her new Set Sail might raise hopes for a few yo-ho-ho's, but there's no bottle of rum here. Wolf's self-styled gypsy folk with a pop spin – cultivated right here in Central Texas since birth – is strong and promising. There's nothing with serious radio punch, but her "Run Into the Sun" has been dance-mixed as a bonus track and adds gypsy violin over a pulse beat effectively. Ex-Tearjoint Troubadour Teri Joyce would have fit right in with the female country singers of the 1970s. Honky-tonk weepers and tears in yer beer? Yep ("Bluebonnets for My Baby"). A tip of the Stetson to A-town? Oh yeah ("Austin, Texas, U.S.A."). Divine duets with Roger Wallace ("Fifteen Minutes of Shame")? Check. Kitchen Radio is 14 tracks of fine-tuned, classic calico country and denim rhythms. The Original Bells of Joy knew they'd found a good thing when they passed the microphone to Julia Magness at one of their shows. Born and raised in Austin, she answered back with one of those rich, smoky altos and Julia Magness & the Original Bells of Joy's The Bells Ring On was born. Though her pretty face decorates the cover, she's not always the lead voice, as on "Running for Jesus." That's correct for gospel, which relies on the response to be as potent as the lead, and they are on this joyous collection of favorites, from the rockin' "Saved" to the grace of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." Recommended for when you're ready to heave the radio after the 50th rendering of "Sleigh Ride" and it's not even Thanksgiving.