New Orleans-based fiddler and singer Amanda Shaw brings dazzling new energy to roots-based Louisiana music. Working with material that ranges from traditional fiddle tunes to new originals that embrace both country and rock influences, Amanda and her band, The Cute Guys, create a sound and an attitude that are both authentic and bold.
In a pop world deluged by tragic tales of teen stars gone horribly wrong, New Orleans' Amanda Shaw can seem an oasis of genuine, countrified charm. Just 16-years-old when she cut this bracing, often effervescent Rounder Records debut with the Cute Guys, (her band of country/bluegrass vets whose youngest member is three decades her senior,) Shaw's strong vocal and violin performances underscore a talent as unique as her biography. A classical violin prodigy who-- at 8-years-old--became the Baton Rouge Symphony's youngest soloist, Shaw switched to playing a diverse gumbo of Cajun-rooted music before she'd reached her teens. It's that refusal to be genre-typecast that powers much the album, as Shaw follows her muse from the effervescent, clear-eyed title track lament, into deceptively effortless cocktails of funk, country, rock, and r&b. Most of Pretty Runs Out is seasoned with a savory New Orleans sass, as the playful violin-horn-guitar interplay of "Brick Wall" attests with funky verve. The swampy "Chermolito" wades into bluesy Bonnie Raitt territory, while she molds the haunting "Garden of Eden" and her cover of the Diane Warren-by-way-of-Cyndi Lauper ballad "I Don't Want to Be Your Lover" forcefully into her own image. The joyous "French Jig" and a medley of reels display her nimble fiddle chops, even if "Woulda Coulda Shoulda" and the closing "Easy On Your Way Out" let her Gwen Stefani jones get the best of her. Yet Shaw's vibrant eclecticism rarely seems forced. Her musical gifts are miles beyond the manufactured teen stars who hog the headlines. --Jerry McCulley
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