March 17, 2007


What's past is perfect for her brassy alto: The English singer's retro sound fuses '60s Motown, jazz and rap with her torchy touch (Ann Powers, March 17, 2007, LA Times)

Slender actresses nibbling on red meat are a tired trope of celebrity profiles, but an artist's gustatory cravings rarely reveal anything about her character. But what Amy Winehouse ordered before a recent sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom here did inadvertently make a point.

Looking for a quiet place to conduct an interview, she'd wandered into Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse, a touristy shrine of "real" Ashkenazi kitsch. "This is cool!" declared the 23-year-old English singer-songwriter, who was raised Jewish, but not surrounded by schmaltz. "We don't have anything like this back in London." She marveled at the chicken fat on the table ("I thought it was orange drink!") and heartily approved of the Catskills-style crooner pumping on a synthesizer in the corner. Winehouse's appreciation wasn't just a matter of retro gawking; when the waitress came, she ordered chopped liver, which she then heartily devoured.

Winehouse's eager consumption of that dauntingly classic dish irresistibly compares to her style of music-making. With a brassy alto that would have made her a great Shirelle, and intonation spanning the gap between gospel and jazz, Winehouse is emerging as today's premier soul revivalist. It's not often that an album is praised for originality and dead-on vintage cool, but that's what's happening with "Back to Black," the award-winning 2006 disc that's now Winehouse's first U.S. release.

-100-Proof Voice: Amy Winehouse Has the Makings of an Incredible Musician. And Perhaps the Makings of a Sad, Short Story (Teresa Wiltz, 2/07/07, Washington Post)

Onstage, the more Amy Winehouse drinks, the better she sings, which is often the case. She's the hottest voice you've never heard -- her album hit No. 1 back home in England -- but right now, at her first U.S. concert, her nerves are bedeviling her. She makes awkward chitchat in that cockney twang. Tugs distractedly at her trademark ratty do. Yanks nervously on the strapless shift that's sliding dangerously south.

Finally, she requests an amaretto sour -- to hoots of approval. It's a part of her shtick, what her fans have come to expect.

"They keep trying to keep me from drinking, but they forget it's my gig." Pause. Sip. "Ahhhhhhhhhhh." She cocks back her head, then lets loose, her voice big, brassy, bitter, giving the lyrics to her single, " Rehab," a certain squirmy poignancy: They tried to make me to go to rehab, but I said no, no, no . . .

Tomorrow, when the hangover kicks in, it'll be a less amusing story, one that conjures that age-old trope of the tortured artist. To witness Winehouse is to wonder why art and self-destruction so often dance together.

-What I know about men ...: Amy Winehouse 23, singer/songwriter, lives with boyfriend (Interview by Chloe Diski, October 8, 2006, The Observer)
-A Billie Holiday for the 21st Century. (BBC)

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2007 12:00 AM

And that Paul Weller is still pretty cool, too.

Posted by: ted welter at March 17, 2007 10:23 AM