Amber deLaurentis has a great voice, and her fourth album, “Innocent Road,” gives her pipes plenty of room to show off. While the album is a bit short at eight tracks and 35 minutes, every song, which she wrote or co-wrote with her husband Tom Cleary, highlights her bluesy, jazz-oriented, somewhat pop delivery.
deLaurentis is not an ingénue. She’s been singing, performing and teaching music for a number of years, and this album is full of the sound of a mature performer who has a lot of confidence in her vocal ability and her songwriting. She is an instructor of jazz voice and co-director of the Vocal Jazz Ensemble at UVM. She has gained national recognition as a vocalist, pianist and songwriter.
In 2002, deLaurentis’ “Lonely in Love” took second place in the Billboard International Songwriting Competition. Her songs have also been finalists in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition and Unisong. In 2002, the Amber deLaurentis Band was one of six finalists, chosen from over 1,200 entrants by the editorial staff of Billboard Magazine, and took Grand Prize in the 2002 Independent Music World Series.
deLaurentis has performed solo and with her band in venues including the Bitter End in New York City, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Toronto’s North by Northeast, and Musikfest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The singer’s resume is deep. She has collaborated with keyboardist Chris Cameron of Sonia Dada and Jim Tullio (producer of Mavis Staples and Los Lonely Boys). In the Burlington area, she performs solo and as a duo with Cleary, a pianist, and she has appeared with Pine Street Jazz and Friends of Joe. She also performs as part of the quartet Birdcode, which released its debut album, “You Are Here,” in June 2019.
On “Innocent Road,” all the material was co-written with lyricist Sarah Blue and Cleary as lyricist-composer. deLaurentis and Cleary worked with East Montpelier producer Colin McCaffrey, who shows his wide breadth of musical knowledge on this album, which is neither the traditional, country or acoustic of his usual musical productions.
The album features members of deLaurentis’ jazz quartet Birdcode, with Cleary (piano), Caleb Bronz (drums) and Justin Dunn (bass). The songs speak to themes of addiction, accepting the struggles of life, the beginning and end of love, recklessness, and finding a companion in the harvest moon.
The songs vary from bluesy “Passing Cloud,” dinner club jazz in “Close to Me,” with Cleary riffing on piano and deLaurentis scat-singing, to the soft ballad with a European feel “Sunset Already.” There’s a country-blues song, “A Couple of Aches,” the theatrical “Deepening Days,” and the slow burner “Little Autumn Moon” among others.
This is a piano-oriented album with some great instrumental backing, thoughtful production and a lot of superb singing. deLaurentis has released a vocal and piano-driven album of strong performances and interesting new songs in a variety of styles. This is an album that shows how a maturing artist grows her career and builds an already excellent reputation.