Amy Petty | Sycamore Tree
Amy Petty celebrates the season with “Sycamore Tree,” a collection of Christmas music that melds old and new with Amy’s signature lush and haunting vocals. With superb supporting performances by Dave Aholt, Joe Meyer and Tommy Martin, Amy’s emotive arrangements of standards plus two of her own original works create a surprising holiday soundtrack that is quietly moving, moody and soulful.
“Are Christmas records, especially ones heavy on old religious standards like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” supposed to be, well … sultry? Judging by Amy Petty’s “Sycamore Tree,” they certainly can be, not to mention mature and moving — but it takes a rare talent to pull it off. Luckily, Petty’s pipes are more than up to the task.
A tremendously appealing chanteuse, Petty’s style comes off as a cross between Sarah McLachlan’s airy balladry and Sade’s smoldering soul, with an air of yearning melancholy that’s all her own. Here, her voice adapts amazingly well to classic carols like “Merry Gentlemen” and “We Three Kings,” restoring in them a sense of wonder they probably once had but had long since lost.
But it’s Petty’s originals that really elevate “Sycamore Tree.” “Babies and Their Halos” mesmerizes with its lilting melody and its message of a world at peace. And in “Lullaby for a King,” included in both acoustic and full-band versions, Petty lulls the newborn Christ child to sleep: “For now rest your head, sweet savior born this night,” she sings, and it’s nothing short of beautiful….
As Petty proves on the title track, an old English variation of “I Saw Three Ships,” it’s possible to illuminate the Christmas spirit without resorting to hip reinterpretations or vocal bombast. You do, however, need a lot of heart and soul, and that’s Amy Petty’s Christmas gift to you.”