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Positive Feedback ISSUE 65
january/february 2013


Musical Impressions: Amber Rubarth, Sessions from the 17th Ward - A 192kHz/24-bit PCM Download from HDTracks
by David W. Robinson


[Album image courtesy of Chesky Records/HDTracks]

"Who's that lady?!"

I've been listening to a new recording from an artist that I've never heard, or hear of, before. Amber Rubarth's Sessions from the 17th Ward is a new album from the good folks at Chesky records. I downloaded it from HDTracks ( in 192kHz/24-bit a couple of days ago, and put it into action via JRiver's Media Center 18 and the Mytek Digital Stereo 192-DSD DAC. These were in turn feeding the new B.M.C. CS2 integrated amplifier (still breaking in, the creature) into my trusty-and-all-too-rusty Nova Ovation two-way Scanspeak monitors. This is a solid playback chain, so if this recording is good, I'll know it, break-in or no.

Well, there's no point in evasion. This collection of 14 tracks ambushed my heart and carried it away as a captive right from the opening sawed strings and guitar of the first track, "Hold On," and held me right through the final notes of "Storms Are On the Ocean." Original stuff like "Don't You" (yeah, don't take a lover when you've got a friend, all right), mixed with other songs like a Dylan cover ("Just Like a Woman"). Nice blend. Terrific feeling of unity of creative act among the musicians. In fact, I listened to the album several times through, and amigos, that doesn't happen very often to me.

Rubarth and her fellow musical artists (Cellist Dave Eggar, Violinist Tim Snider, and Percussionist Chuck Palmer) show flair and deep feeling in their strumming, picking, and bowing. The results are spectacular: it's like something that I might have expected to hear from Rounder Records, say, or out of a top-notch Nashville studio. This is really unique stuff… a kind of cross-over country with sophistication and a sultry feel for its place in the musical universe. I can't quite place Rubarth's voice; it's like some other female vocalists… maybe a Roseanne Cash (whose music I love deeply) in feel and soul, though with a different timbre and attack. But maybe not, which is a good thing… Amber Rubarth is her own voice.

And the sound? First rate, for sure. Chesky Records has gotten this right: just close enough to feel the fingers and bows on strings, and the lightly chesty articulation of Rubarth's velvety voice. Smoky, seductive, and heart-coming-out, dried-eyed, but wandering deep in soul, with Eggar's cello providing growling depth and counterpoint… perfect. This is as good as anything I've heard from Chesky Records, and I've been listening to them since the later ‘80s. Be sure to get the 192kHz/24-bit of this one; the quality of the sound needs the highest resolution that you can get.

My only regrets?

Two. One is that this one isn't available in DSD.


The other is that I'm not in NYC to do a photographic session and interview with Amber.

No doubt about it, though: this one is very highly recommended. Don't miss it!