By LARRRY PARNASS, Staff Writer Friday, February 15, 2002 -- Amy Fairchild, Harry's, Friday at 9 p.m.
Music promotion breeds a strange impulse. In material accompanying Amy Fairchild's terrific new CD, "Mr. Heart," the former Northampton songwriter's work is described many ways, including this one: "If Tom Petty and Sarah McLachlan had a baby, she'd be it." Last summer, No Depression magazine wrote of Cynthia Hopkins, whose latest CD, "Hooker," is reviewed below: "If Lucinda Williams and Tom Waits had a baby girl, and she came out singing, she might sound a little like Gloria Deluxe."
Love is in the air. All that genetic determinism aside, comparisons are perhaps unavoidable in print journalism. If you like a recording and want others to listen to it, the obvious thing to do is assure them that it will please them the way other music already does.
Fairchild's latest work is immediately familiar, for it comes shrouded with a sense of family. The singer and songwriter, now based in New York City, sounds, in turns, like Joni Mitchell (the wandering piano melody on "Humble Pie"), Sheryl Crow (the rhythmic hand claps and buzzing electric guitar of "Beautiful Secret"), Shawn Colvin (the jangly acoustic guitar and reaching vocals of "Mr. Heart') and Laura Nyro (the pop, almost Burt Bachrach knit to "Home"). Get that many echoes of great music vibrating at once, of course, and you create something else entirely. Fairchild waited five years before bringing this new CD out. Slowly, she built a memorable and durable collection of songs that should elevate her prospects significantly. Through all the fresh and different stances Fairchild adopts here, what lingers is the thing that matters most in songs so loaded with story: genuineness. In the song "Movie," she starts with a listless tone, sketching a day spent wandering New York streets. Its refrain jumps into overdrive, though. "I'm where I want to be / starring in my own damn movie. / And you get in for free. / Stick with me baby." Her gladness is as convincing as a long boulevard of green lights.
Since leaving Northampton, many good things have been happening for Fairchild. She won the New York City Lilith Fair talent competition in 1999. Last year, she took the Kerrville Folk Festival prize, putting her in the company of past winners Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith. Amy Fairchild is as good as all of them. Her song "Ok, alright" is sung with the ease of a master. Those two words, when they come in this beautiful composition, confer a tenderness that makes one's heart rise. Fairchild at Harry's ... this is a major talent in a small club - and that's a recipe for a memorable night.