Parking Lots, Bars, and Falling Stars
Sweet Anne Marie
by Roy Peak
Three things right off the bat about Pennsylvanian indie-folk artist Sweet Anne Marie that I liked before I even heard her music:
In her press photos she seems a bit awkward and to me that's an adorable selling point. She's not afraid of the Oxford comma—also a good thing. And lastly, she has a song titled "Retrograde," beating me to the punch on that one. Sweet Anne Marie, my hat is off to you. Oh, and she plays a really cool Gretsch hollow body electric guitar!
But how are the songs? I hear you say. Interesting that you would ask that, as I was just about to tell you.
The aforementioned "Retrograde" is an electric guitar-strummed pop song, Anne Marie's contralto voice adding weight to the mournful, yet hopeful, words:
"Tell me that it’s just retrograde
Like a free fall into nothing
With a little trust in something
Tell me that it’s just retrograde
If you watch the sky
You'll see the storm about to break"
The title track is a barroom weeper about learned lessons and moving on:
“I could see a little clearer if it wasn’t for the stars in my eyes
I could move a little faster if it wasn’t for the cars passing by
Count the losses as a lesson
And chalk the rest up to luck”
That line about "stars in my eyes" is true blue rock 'n' roll, matter of fact contradictions and all, a sign that there's more to Marie than even meets the eye. Lines like this, subtle as they are, don't come around every day. She may come off as a folkie, an indie-pop singer-songwriter, a sad song strummer—but underneath there's an old school rock 'n' roll spirit that escapes when needed.
There’s an electric guitar crying underneath " Milk and Honey” that gets to shine through on parts of the song like the sun showing itself on a dreary day, a poignant element to a song that brings to mind hope amidst the frustrations of life and love.
“Sorry, Not a Winner” is the catchiest song here, a singalong in the clubs for sure, while the banjo in “Last to Know” adds a marked contrariness to the lyrics which is apt since this one is about making decisions and dealing with consequences. (I’m wondering if Anne Marie is a Gemini since many of her songs are about balance, choices, and what's up with that road not taken. Wait—Libra?)
I have a thing for songs named after states and cities so “Iowa” got my attention right away. This one's a folk-pop song about leaving, moving on, hopefully for the best, and sometimes that’s all we can strive for.
Sweet Anne Marie has a way of presenting her songs as assured even though some of them seem to have come seemingly from a cloud of dread. She’s contemplative, restless, and a bit fearless—all striking traits of a songwriter working out their demons in song.
All of these songs are presented with sparse production—banjo, bass low in the mix, a scattering of drums, some keys and harmonica to fill out Marie's guitar and expressive voice—and that's mostly for the best here, but truth is Anne Marie's songwriting is strong enough to handle a fuller production if she wants to go that route on her next collection of songs. Looking forward to whichever road Sweet Anne Marie decides to go down.
Relevant links if you're requiring more Sweet Anne Marie:
Apple music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/sweet-anne-marie/1572232172
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. Roy writes music reviews for the Rocking Magpie among others.