Amelia – Biding their time
If those who don’t learn from history are likely to repeat it, then perhaps those who most acutely feel the lessons of the past are the best candidates to completely set it aside and start afresh.
Three-quarters of torch-twang ensemble Amelia served time with the Flatirons, a band that produced one promising disc (1999’s Prayer Bones on Checkered Past) and promptly disappeared. It proved a painful but defining experience.
“Making that record was our last act as a band,” says Amelia guitarist/songwriter Scott Weddle. “It came out, but then we didn’t have much left to give. We were just starting to see what happens when you have a good band and you make a good record.
“But it was a dark time for us,” Weddle adds, alluding to a tension-fraught intra-band dynamic that ultimately splintered the group in 2000. “Toward the end, there wasn’t the energy to get anything from the idea stage to the ‘playing it live’ stage. We got so close…”
Weddle subsequently played with singer-songwriter Warren Pash before Pash left town to try his luck at the Nashville game. It was at a Pash gig that Weddle eventually met the muse who would revive his interest in starting a band, singer Teisha Helgerson.
When the time came to assemble a band, Weddle didn’t have to look very far afield for help. “I gave a demo I had to Jesse [Emerson] and Richie [Cuellar],” he says, referring to the Flatirons’ rhythm section. “They were the most obvious choices, guys I knew that were good and would get what I was trying to do.”
What Weddle set out to do this time was slightly to the left of Flatirons territory, however. Amelia’s debut, Somewhere Left To Fall…, is restrained and spare where the Flatirons were hopped-up and bold, inspired equally by old-time country songwriting, Latin folk rhythms and the jazz-inflected phrasing of Helgerson’s remarkable voice. The album works as a conceptual whole, too; red-eyed and blue, it’s a collection of languid love songs tinged with longing (“No Valentine”), a Fleetwood Mac-like shade of bitter regret (“Come Clean”), and a sense of what Brazilians call “saudade” — an almost indescribable state of lonely sorrow.
This geographic reference suits the band: Their live show features a traditional Argentinean tune sung in Spanish, “Mar Y Luna”, and an occasional cover rendered by Helgerson in either French or Portuguese.
Alongside these are other song choices that have occasionally surprised audiences. “We’ve been doing [Leonard Cohen’s] ‘Hallelujah’ lately, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Fearless’,” Helgerson mentions.
“But T sings it real pretty,” Weddle laughs. “Sometimes she even dances around a little bit.”
“When the spirit moves me,” Helgerson retorts, suggesting she’s subject to no one’s timetable but her own. Somewhat like Amelia itself.