Conventional love song wisdom might tell us that the five gloriously relatable and soulful, pop, jazz, blues and country inflected tunes on emerging singer-songwriter Amber Nicholson’s deeply heartfelt, emotionally raw and honest debut solo EP Far Away Dreaming are inspired by a real life story (hers or perhaps someone she knows) about a determined woman’s courage to leave and ability to move on from a troubled romantic with dignity ad hope, – despite some wistful “what ifs?” in relation to the lost dream.
It’s just possible, however that the Texas native – who studied jazz vocals at the University of North Texas - she may also be referencing, at least symbolically, the hearty embrace of a new phase in her career after years of paying dues in local clubs and lounges, playing with cover bands and co-founding the indie rock band Relic, which released several EPs and albums between 2016-22. A casual listen to that group’s most streamed tunes reveals boisterous productions dominating and an echoing treatment of Nicholson’s vocals that, though in service to infectious tunes, stripped much of the warmth, intimacy, charm and blend of power and delicacy that takes her new and more mature material to transcendent levels.
Whatever the source of her narrative brilliance and engaging rootsy delivery thereof, Nicholson is a true revelation who only needs 20 or so minutes to make us laugh, cry and nod along knowingly as we connect with her desire to be somewhere Far Away Dreaming. You might think you’ve stumbled onto a winsome Norah Jones outtake (one of her stated influences) when you’re listening to her vocals on the edgy, opening mid-tempo groove and blues-drenched ballad “Heart to Stone.” Yet even as you’re thinking that, Nicholson is rolling our thoughts away with words that remind us that freedom and romantic extrication often comes at a price: “So don’t hate me ‘cause I’m saying goodbye/I had to turn my heart to stone so I could let you go.”
Shifting the vibe considerably – like say, back quite a few decades – the singer asserts her unique vocal blend of angelic transcendence and grounded grittiness on the EP’s first lead single “Far Far Far,” creating a fascinating ragtime-styled piano vibe (complete with an eye popping solo by the Nicholson) to reflect on how love (and even a restrictive relationship) helped her grow into a whole new person. From there, she wistfully/whimsically ponders a future that was never to be on the reflective “Oh (Where Are You),” extols the virtues of keeping thoughts to herself via the haunting, searing ballad “My Silence” and showcases the burning blues fire of her band (most notably, guitarist Nolan Burke and organist Randy Well) on the assertive, leaving no emotional tables unturned blues/rock power ballad “That I Believe.”