Album Review: Ambre Mclean – Murder at the Smokehouse

Review by Alex Goyetche

Ambre Mclean’s album opens with a single distorted guitar peppered in reverb, soon moves on to a strong and smooth vocal and is eventually supported by a slew of rhythm instruments. It builds up and breaks down and boasts a very catchy sing a long style chorus. It’s the title track, and it is also the format of the CD.

Mclean’s vocals are well sold, immediately grasping enough attention to continue listening. The type of voice that can do what it needs to do in the necessary spots, changing from soft and flippant to gruff and commanding.

But for a solo album the supporting instruments aren’t flat in the mix. They do their job as well as they can while still keeping in mind that it’s the lead singer/songwriters show.

Fitting into what is basically the textbook pop song format, the tracks on “Murder at the Smokehouse” are conventional in a way that isn’t boring. The songs are very catchy and fairly simple in their construction but stay fresh enough to keep listener attention. The lyrics aren’t complicated and are easy to read, but they’re not overly simplified in a way that would make them pedestrian.

All this may stem from the fact that Mclean knows how to lead a long the ear, be it slowing her phrasing and then speeding it up or hamming up her performance to keep things interesting. The same way a stage actor has to yell everything they say, even when they’re supposed to be whispering. Dressing up something plain in an ear grabbing way.

The album features touches of the alternative. A vocal bass “bomm boom” on “Tricky Truth”, some organ, and some far off vocal fluttering. But I think the album works best when it’s at its grassroots stages, with the guitar and voice demanding attention and doing it well.

In this genre of music it’s almost unnecessary to highlight the other artists Mclean sounds like. Ambre Mclean wears her influences on her sleeve without ripping anyone off and that’s fine with me. The songs vary enough to sound original and not like mimicry.

The album is simple and goes down easy. It stays within the norm of the pop/alternative female singer songwriter, but it owns the genre. It has well built songs with very catchy hooks. Mclean shows some serious vocal chops and enough confidence to make me believe in what she’s doing.


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