If good things come to those who wait, alt-country fans had their patience rewarded on June 10, 2014, when singer-songwriter Amy McCarley released Jet Engines, the highly anticipated follow-up to her 2011 self-titled debut.
McCarley, who was named one of 12 North Alabama artists to watch by The Huntsville Times in 2012, has shared stages with artists like singer-songwriter Kevin Gordon and bluegrass legend Claire Lynch; earlier this year, she performed on WDVX’s popular Blue Plate Special. A skilled musician — she spent time in Houston studying classical guitar at Rice University — the Alabama native traveled to Nashville to make her sophomore record, seeking out Grammy-winning guitarist Kenny Vaughan (best known for his tenure with Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives) and George Bradfute, the “Tone Chaperone” of Nashville’s Tone Chaparral Studios — located in a house formerly owned by country crooner Jim Reeves — where Jet Engines was recorded.
“Pretty much everything you hear on the record is live,” McCarley told The Huntsville Times in 2013, adding that, “[Recording] was magical. We just went in there and went for it. And I think you hear that.”
Jet Engines, which sizzles with the energy of a live performance, is an engaging journey across the spectrum of roots music, from the Bakersfield-influenced “Here I Am” to the smoldering Americana of the album’s title track to the undercurrent of alt-country in the primal “Hands Tied.” Rockabilly-tinged toe-tapper “Radio On” recalls the stellar throwback records made by k.d. lang & The Reclines in the ’80s as McCarley’s earthy alto deftly two steps through the tune.
The record’s introspective opening track, “Everybody Wants To,” was voted by The Huntsville Times to be one of 2013’s 13 Best Songs from North Alabama Artists alongside songs by Americana darlings The Civil Wars and rockers Alabama Shakes.
McCarley firmly embraces country music’s rambling tradition on “Head Out of Town,” which features some sweet slide guitar from engineer and co-producer George Bradfute. Anchored by Kenny Vaughan’s blistering guitar, “Woods on Fire” is a stellar honky tonker, while “Fool’s Lament” shows her talent for writing evocative and heartbreaking lyrics.
Though Amy McCarley has already taken her home state by storm, with the release of Jet Engines, she’s ready to take off onto the national Americana music scene.
ON JET ENGINES...
“These things don’t happen all that often – it’s always a surprise, a very pleasant one, when you immediately feel connected to the songs, the arrangements and the artist. That happened to me when I first heard Amy McCarley. [She’s] taking you on a musical journey you’ll most likely never forget!”
— Bill Bowker, Music Director KRSH 95.9FM Santa Rosa, CA
“McCarley’s sound is all her own, and her latest album Jet Engines showcases an artist firmly grounded in Americana, yet well-poised to make an individual statement. Roots guitar fans will immediately be draw to the production imprint of Kenny Vaughan … Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives … leads a rock-solid band, and tasty blues-meets country riffs abound. However, it’s Amy’s songwriting that commands the stage. Her voice is a nuanced instrument best paired with a strong lyrical hook, evidenced by honky tonk gems “Here I Am” and “Radio On,” hard-driving, foot-tapping tunes with country soul that puts the current Nashville radio crop to shame.”
— No Depression
“Amy McCarley has released an excellent sophomore album. It will hopefully receive some deserved airplay and give her some exposure. Jet Engines is worth the price of admission.”
— Cashbox Music Review
“The new release continues solidifying Amy’s talents as one of the undiscovered gems of country music. The gentle sway of “Everybody Wants To” and the upbeat “Here I Am” showcases her diversity in her songwriting, while maintaining her country roots. She displays her crooner swing with “Radio On,” before pouring her heart into the ballad “Smart Man.”
— JP’s Music Blog
“Listening to alt-country singer Amy McCarley’s snapshot-like sophomore album Jet Engines, you feel like you’re in the room as the music is being recorded ... live-in-the-studio … captured in natural yet mountain-stream-clear tones … relatable songs … makes you think about you and your life as much as the person singing.”
— Huntsville Times
“Jet Engines is an enjoyable listen throughout — plenty of roots, rockabilly and country as well as McCarley’s very distinctive voice.”
— My Joog.com
“There must be something in the air or water again in northern Alabama. Home to the legendary Fame studio in Muscle Shoals … this part of the country is breeding future stars again ... Alabama Shakes … St. Paul and the Broken Bones … homegrown artists inspired by the local musical history. … The latest artist to cross my playlist is Amy McCarley. Instead of horns and soul influences you might expect, though, McCarley dives into some classic country and alt country music with a hint of the delta blues from nearby Mississippi… I can’t help but believe you’re going to hear her songs covered by other artists. And bringing even more cred to a part of the country already renowned for its musical heritage. ”
“Jet Engines” picked Alt Root Top 10 Songs of the Week 6/11/14; “Amy McCarley’s inner-motor is rumbling and ready to go.”
— The Alternate Root
ON AMY'S 2011 DEBUT...
"The whole package: a real live southern songwriter with a unique sound and gorgeous voice in every sense of the word. Amy McCarley is perhaps
the best new female Americana artist you've never heard. Raw; transcendent. Not to be missed."
— Mark Mason, Director of Writer Publisher Relations BMI Nashville
"It's one thing to sound great on your record. It's another thing to pull it off live. Amy and her band do both. They are genuine and have soul ...
important intangibles few can claim. Live or alone in the studio, Amy delivers good music."
— Brett Tannehill, Program Director WLRH 89.3 FM Huntsville AL
"This is a warm, organic, natural, fully realized and very well put together sounding record that sounds like Amy McCarley: her voice, her spirit, her direction. When she sings in that low deep dark honey register, that's good stuff right there. Her voice sounds traveled, elastic, and evokes a lot of different emotions. Very impressed with her album. I love it."
-Brad Posey, The Invisible City WLRH 89.3 FM Huntsville AL
"Amy does a great job with her music. It speaks from the heart with an earthy realness that today's mass produced media lacks."
-Nate Emery, Huntsville's Home Brew WTAK 106.1 FM Clear Channel Huntsville AL
"Amy McCarley is unmistakably genuine. Her energy on stage matches her ability to portray real life emotions in her songs. She is a Huntsville treasure."
-Evan Billiter, Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment Events Coordinator Huntsville, AL
"She put this album together all by herself ... plays everything ... self-produced, self-released, self everything... and it's turned out rather well."
-Iain Anderson, The Iain Anderson Show BBC Radio Scotland
"The combination of her killing voice and of this very unique sound makes this CD a real musical gem...I particularly love the song Long Way Home
...and beyond that, all her music sounds true."
-Mike Penard, American Roots Music Show ISA Radio France
“[Amy] has a voice … which is engagingly natural and organic as she brings life-worn cares and emotions to her songs… [She also] totally owns a cover of [Gillian] Welch’s Look At Miss Ohio.”
-Mike Davies, NetRhythms.co.uk London - read the full review
“There is an honesty at the heart of this album that feels like you're hearing this person's truth. It feels real, which in these days of polished
manufactured music is something to admire. It's directness, from artist to listener, should be applauded. This is Amy McCarley as she wants to be
heard without any outside influences. …a strong individual making her music, her way. “
-LonesomeHighway.com - read the full review
"What makes this debut primarily exceptional, is the fact that she plays all the instruments herself. You wouldn't expect such a raw and organic sound resulting from layering tracks. McCarley (vocals, guitars, drums, keys, mouthharp) writes songs in which she balances between surrender and independence."
-John Gjaltema, AltCountry.nl Netherlands - read the full review
"The songs on this solo album have been kept simple, which makes them intriguing, grabbing and holding the attention of the listener.
Amy McCarley pays a lot of attention on her lyrics as she makes true poetry."
-Freddy Celis, Rootstime.be Belgium - read the full review
"An interesting and distinctive voice…. with words that sparkle and delight… hum with poetry and beauty… Keep an eye out for this new talent."
-Seamus Doran, Showbiz.Euvue.co.uk England - read the full review