let the looks fool you. Sure, Amanda Henkel is gorgeous,
attractive for all the right reasons – a snow storm smile, a
face you’d expect to see looking out from Vogue, but for
this former Hawaiian Tropic model there’s only one ambition
and it’s not to pout and strut global catwalks. She’s been
there done that. As she hits the shelves with her five track
extended play, the immediate comparisons are a glamorous
Angelina Jolie meets Jessica Simpson.
But while the focus might at
first glance be with the looks, this mother of two young
twin boys is keen to unwrap the package and reveal her
passion and major creativity rests in country music.
However, while we ponder
comparisons, Henkel is no Anita Cochran or Miranda Lambert.
Her voice and song choice preclude the similarities, but
she’s also not a stunner riding the glamour bus, hoping for
an easy chart arrival because of a generous gene pool. She
has done the hard yards, scouting home state Louisiana with
her sister in a band called Lil Sis . With the
apprenticeship nearly served, it’s time for the songstress
from Slidell to make it on her own terms.
If you like your music pop
etched and country tinged, this self-titled release, out on
Desire Street Records, is for you. The album opens with the
harmony soaked tale of losing at the love game and the
hardship that follows, “Climbing Up Mt.Everest”. Produced by
Csaba Petocz, the track, indeed the album, has enough twang
going for it to be a country album –but only just. When
Henkel gathers speed, gains more radio play, and keenly and
clearly defines her path, she has enough to deliver a more
country-focused album. However, until then, this mini album
is an entrée to the possibilities.
A real surprise to the album,
and maybe to the howls of those who like this version, is
“Break My Stride”. I was disappointed. The Matthew Wilder
top ten hit from 1984 is so out of place here. The passage
of time may have dulled some senses, but to older listeners
–yes, like me – the track comes quickly remembered, and
that’s half the problem. When you re-record a popular
karaoke tune, the danger always lies in comparisons with the
original. Without staying on it too long, to my ears this
was a bad song choice, especially for such an important
Musical redemption, of sorts,
comes with “No Easy Way Out”. Penned by Wade Kirby, Liz Rose
and Kim Tribble, the tune is an easy and melodic ballad. It
pines its way around hearts and distance, while Henkel’s
phrasing and tender working makes the song, not strictly
country but close enough, a signpost to her vocal talents.
The album rounds out with “Can’t
Trust The Weatherman”. The tune, fiddle rich and drum
pounded, is a tale of a marriage made on the run and
repented in leisure. As the spoils of a bank robbery staged
in sunshine are later lost and flung when a hurricane hits,
the message is simple: you just can’t trust the weatherman.