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Amador, Robinson, Ross all belong in a concert of equals

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., March 9, 2023

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

What was billed as a concert featuring three co-headliners with Emily Scott Robinson, Lizzy Ross, who is one-half of Violet Bell, and Alisa Amador did not turn out that way in their Beantown stop.

That was not a bad thing, however, because this was a homecoming for Amador, who ended up headlining the show with a lot of heart and soul.

So, while it may not have been a concert of equals per se when it came to face time on the stage before maybe half a house, it was not that way when it came to quality because each of the singers had a lot to offer when it came to their vocal delivery.

During parts of the show, they took turns on lead vocals with the others backing them up – always a positive. Robinson possessed a sweet, pure vocal delivery. She's more of a folk singer than anything and has an appreciative demeanor to boot.

It also helped she has the songs to match. The highlight by Robinson was the segment in the first set featuring a few songs from "Built on Bones," released as a collection of six original songs for the witches of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Intended for live theatre, Robinson ended up recording her songs with Amador and Ross helping out in three-part harmony. In the live setting, "Old Gods" and "Double Double" were particular standouts.

Indicating that the sisterhood between the three performers was legit (it also was International Women's Day the day before the show, Robinson mentioned), Robinson included a pretty take on "Lost Women's Prayer." During the song, Robinson, a Colorado native, too a break by paying tribute to trans people as we, before finishing the pretty melody. With lines like "Grant you grace for the hard days/And may you be kind to yourself/Run reckless and headlong toward your biggest fears/Pull your dusty dreams down off the shelf/Let your life be of service/Turn your pain into purpose," it's no wonder that Robinson is on Oh Boy Records, the label created by the late, most great songwriter John Prine. At 35, Robinson is a welcome late bloomer.

Ross had her chance to shine as well over five songs played with her Violet Bell partner, Omar Ruiz-Lopez, fleshing out the sound on banjo and later keyboards. Ross' airy vocals, such as the opener, "I'll Fly Away," carried the songs with perhaps the biggest voice of the three.

While it would have been great to hear far more of Robinson, Amador easily and understandably stepped into the headlining role. Submitting the song "Milonga Accidental" to NPR's Tiny Desk Concert last year, Amador shocked herself and forged a career as she actually won the contest.

The daughter of Boston-area Latino musicians, Amador sang about equally in both English and Spanish during her 65-minute set. Like her fellow singers on this night, Amador has the vocal chops. She also took care in explaining the songs and emotions behind the material.

Amador, who was backed by a trio, did not box herself in genre wise, something she said point blank. She had a jazz element to her songs along with a soulful quality (think Bonnie Raitt, who seemed like a definite influence, without the overt blues bent).

The gorgeous "Milonga Accidental" closed the regular set. The song is about not fitting in and living with contradictions. In a way, it mirrored Amador's feelings on this night because she genuinely seemed surprised to be on the stage, given the emotion she projected on more than one occasion during her banter. It was also clear she was also happy to be singing her songs as well she should have. Like Ross and Robinson, she belonged. Amador showed that coming home again suited her just fine.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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