Album review: With a Bullet Between My Teeth by Amber Rae Slade

a4276077920_16There isn’t much in the way of biographical information available online for singer-songwriter Amber Rae Slade, except that she was born in Detroit, Michigan to a musical family and now lives in Sydney (New South Wales). Knowing more about her wouldn’t necessarily affect how one listens to her music – it’s just nice to know – but not knowing more about her does mean that we can presume that everything she wants us to know is in her music.

With a Bullet Between My Teeth is Slade’s new album. It was produced, engineered, and mixed by Matt Fell, with additional engineering by Shane Nicholson and mastered by Michael Carpenter. So there are heavyweights involved with this album, and no doubt they’ve made great contributions – Fell plays most of the instruments in addition to his other roles – but the album is exceptional because of the songs and the singer.

Slade has a voice that is earthy and edgy, passionate and knowing. By subtly shifting tone she can implore or dictate or confide, and thereby indicates that she is giving us a panoply of experiences in these songs, all of which but one (‘Betty Was Black (& Willie Was White)’) were written by her. It seems like a road album, not least because it feels like Slade is in constant motion, sometimes urgent, looking round the next corner and ahead to the next wide open space, hungry for experiences but stopping sometimes to reflect and document them. It’s also a rollicking ride, and if you sit back and absorb the songs in turn, it really does feel like the rhythms of the songs mimic the rhythms of travelling through a diverse landscape: up hill and down dale, through forests and deserts.

So if Slade wants us to learn about her from her songs, what we can take away is this: she has things to tell us, and they’ll be things we want to hear, and we have to trust her enough to give her the time to tell us. That also means she has to be able to trust us. The performer and their audience is, after all, a relationship. And With a Bullet Between My Teeth is definitely a relationship, not a flirtation. It’s a commitment, not because it’s hard work but because Slade pulls us close and when an artist pays the audience that compliment we had better respect it. The reward is 11 songs that are constantly rewarding and often rapturous.

With a Bullet Between My Teeth is only available on Bandcamp. Pay whatever you want from as little as $1. Half of all proceeds go to the Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre in Redfern.