Originally appeared on Grimy Goods.
There is not a genre so forlorn as the blues. That seems obvious; it’s all in the name. Cultural appropriation aside, blues has endured because, well, the human condition can sometimes lead us down a dark path. But Amy Blaschke takes turmoil and creates purpose in her newest album, aptly titled, Breaking the Blues.
Blaschke is local to LA by way of Seattle, and has been releasing music since 1999. This is her sixth album, and it reveals — in her words — the culmination of a lifetime of melancholy. That does seem heavy, but it is important to note that she also regards songwriting as a healthy outlet for her emotions, to prevent from becoming “downhearted.” In that, she finds resolution and that is what makes this record so beautiful.
Blaschke has been often praised for her lyrical prowess. On Breaking the Blues, she does not disappoint, weaving emotion together into a coherent and relatable story. When you first begin the album, it almost seems like the title refers to defeat, as if sadness and disappointment were so overwhelming that even the term “blues” was an understatement. “The hours you’re away/ heartache rules the day,” she sings, acknowledging a pain that can accompany falling in love. Then she has a breakthrough on “Peace Keeping,” where she, figuratively speaking, finds her voice.
I am curious to see her perform live with her band to witness their chemistry, which she herself has described as joyous. (She is playing the Echo this Sunday, June 26th- free before 5pm!) The guitars keep up the momentum of the release, with electric, steel, and acoustic guitars working in harmony. But, even more specifically, I want to hear the quirks in Blaschke’s voice firsthand. She conveys a subtle yet unmistakable force, as in the both steady and wavering notes in the chorus of “Falling for the Moment,” or the falsetto slide toward the end of “Exploding Roses.”
The real turning point of the record comes during the title track. Sonically, she sings with a muttled reverb that the Beatles used (with far less subtlety) on a “Blue Jay Way,” which fills me with nostalgia. That familiarity is oddly reassuring, especially given the song’s message of acceptance. She continues in the final track:
“… I guess for now I’ll get by somehow
And I’ll creep in a creed
To be the love … I need”
This is a woman with a sense of independence, working through her emotions both in the album’s narrative and more broadly in her general life. For both of those reasons, Breaking the Blues is a satisfying listen. Blues itself is not going anywhere, but Blaschke proves we can overcome our personal struggles, and that is arguably more significant.
Breaking the Blues is out on Bird On A Lyre on July 1st. Catch Amy Blaschke at the Echo this Sunday, June 26th as part of Grand Old Echo. She hits the stage at 5 p.m.