Edith Grove’s Highway of Diamonds instantly conjures up an Old West image of a late night around the campfire filled with singing, drinking and … drinking.
You begin to get the impression that Amanda Kooser and the rest of her quartet have not encountered too many diamond-studded highways along the way of what, by all lyrical accounts, has been a somewhat bumpy journey.
There is grit, sorrow and forlornness aplenty to be sure, but there’s also something staggeringly kind about Suzanne Shelton’s cello and Kooser’s vocals that can be pretty darn sweet when she desires them to be.
In the band’s search for a producer who understands true Americana the way it was meant to be played, Edith Grove settled on Brett Sparks of the Handsome Family who recorded the band’s second full-length release at Handsome Family studios in Albuquerque. “Brett really understood the sound we were going for,” says Kooser. “Overall, the whole recording process was much more laid back and enjoyable than our first release” (2002’s Cravin’ Love with Blazin’ Speed).
Highway features several guest musicians on everything from pedal steel and banjo to violin and blues harp. The appearances help fill out the alt.country sound that’s part Indigo Girls and part Bob Dylan with the Rolling Stones’ influence equally apparent.
Kooser’s favorite track, “Slow It Down,” is a more upbeat song that highlights the singer/songwriter’s top 40 tastes that she harbored in the mid ’80s. “We do want to write songs that are at least somewhat catchy,” Kooser admits. “We refer to ‘Slow It Down’ as the ‘pop song’ of the record because I think it’s one of the catchiest.”
After noting that the word “whiskey” appeared more than a dozen times in the album’s lyrics and on its press release, I began to get the impression that Kooser was a bit of an old-fashioned liquor connoisseur. Sure enough, Kooser owns what she believes is the “largest rye collection in Albuquerque.” “Rye whiskey goes way back to the days of George Washington, even before bourbon,” Kooser explains. “The drink has sort of fallen out of the mainstream liquor culture, but I still view it as very iconic.”
The lyrical obsession with a historic beverage is just one of the novel aspects of Edith Grove. Perhaps the most basic unusual characteristic of the band is its mostly female lineup which, Kooser says, may help draw attention to the outfit. “Whatever brings people in and gets them interested in us is good, even if it’s just seeing a band of mostly women,” Kooser says.
Having had a fruitful existence in the Albuquerque music scene for the better part of a decade, Kooser offers up some handy advice for bands who want to survive and thrive in our ever-burgeoning city. “Maybe one of the most important things is to be professional,” Kooser advises. “Whether it’s putting together a good-looking press kit or cover art for an album or even things like showing up to gigs early, that kind of professional attitude goes a long way.”