Amanda Pearcy’s soulful and country-leaning Americana music took root in her hardscrabble history, authentically grounded in a raw and earthy, soulful voice. Testifying to her southeast Texas upbringing, with the region’s multicultural mix, its Gulf of Mexico coastline, and its shared border with Louisiana’s Acadiana, the songs on Pearcy’s second CD, Royal Street, carry a sense, and the sensuality, of the South, weaving themes of home and its loss; love, both surrendered to, and longed for; the casting of spells; the ties that bind old friends; and our human experience’s collective memory. Produced by Tim Lorsch, Royal Street is a true album, a collection of songs that settle in for the ride through Texas to New Orleans and back again; the journey being a testament of life’s tougher lessons learned too young, and the insight that comes with getting to the other side of them.
“Soft as sunbeams on the water
Gently kissing their reflections
As if to kiss a son, a daughter
And a thousand tender recollections”
The youngest of four, Amanda Pearcy was born and raised in Houston, Texas, in a modest, and at times, turbulent home. Her father lost his father when he was a boy, and he and his widowed mother shared a tiny downtown Houston shotgun duplex with extended family before his mother remarried a railroad man. Likewise, Pearcy’s mother was left motherless at a tender age, and was raised along with her brother by their oil derrick building father in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and later, on a farm in Muskogee County, where they were no strangers to picking cotton. Although as a child Amanda Pearcy yearned to express herself creatively in a musical way, day to day life took precedence in her childhood home. Several years after losing her first husband, and practically out of the blue, Pearcy picked up his pawn shop guitar and got to the work of finally feeding her soul. She had met him at a haunt off campus while attending the University of Texas at Austin. Too prideful to answer to “roughneck”, he worked seven days a week as a derrick man in the oil rigs around east-central Texas. Falling quickly in love and with a baby on the way, they married behind a double-wide mobile home on the banks of the lower Colorado River. They made their home in the Lost Pines thirty miles east of Austin where she hung laundry on the line to dry, and depending on which weekly shift he was working, had either breakfast or supper ready for him when he came home. He passed away when their son was two years old, leaving them with not much more than a couple of old Oldsmobiles (a hard top Cutlass Supreme and a Delta 88 Royale). To escape the sadness of the home without him, a move fifteen further miles east to the nostalgic small town of Smithville followed, and included another short and semi-tragic marriage to an ex-con heroin addict. On the run again to leave behind another loss at the hope of having a family, and because it was another world away (at the same distance from Austin to the west at least), Pearcy packed up her son and headed to Wimberley, Texas. Although some good came from that move with meeting current husband and fellow singer-songwriter, Louis “Cowboy” Johnson there, a yearning for what felt more like home took her back to the rich black soil and live oaks of Smithville… until she was rooted just enough to let go again and head back to Austin.
“You and I’ve had moments spent
As birds of paradise
Flying free in the contentment
Of our ordinary lives”
Regretful wanderings and bittersweet reminiscences are among the stories that inevitably work their way into Amanda Pearcy’s songs on Royal Street. Apparently the restlessness, the missteps, and the tragedies that brought her so much pain have also planted her firmly in the garden of authentic songwriting that comes from one who’s lived it. And in those moments when life does happen to us, as Amanda Pearcy writes, don’t we all simply long to fly free in “the contentment of an ordinary life”.
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