Amber Digby Sings with Legends on “Heroes, Mentors and Friends”

There are traditional country artists, and then there is Amber Digby. She is in that elite class of country performers who you never have to worry about wavering from the very essence of the roots of the music, because like the late great Daryle Singletary, or Gene Watson, or Justin Trevino, or Teea Goans and others, the heart of country is interwoven into the very fiber of their beings, and they know no different.

Like many of the old greats, their lives, careers, and music are like vessels to carry the true influence of country music into the future, and they shoulder that responsibility with great honor and care. That’s what Amber Digby has done now for over fifteen years, and five studio albums, helping to bring appreciation for classic country songs to a new generation.

Amber Digby grew up in the music, with her father, mother, stepfather, and uncles all making a living as professional musicians, as both solo artists and contributors to the music of legends like Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith, Faron Young, Ronnie Milsap, Hank Williams, Jr., and others. Digby spent ample time backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, on the sets of Hee Haw and Nashville Now, and now she’s taken all of those connections she’s made over the years, and the mutual respect she’s earned as one of the best classic country voices of this generation to record Heroes, Mentors, and Friends: The Legends Project.

You can try to imbue your recordings with the influence of country royalty, or you can just invite them into the studio to record with you, which is what Amber Digby does on this new record, cutting duets with the likes of Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, the late great Johnny Bush, and Vince Gill among others. Fiddle start offs, steel guitar solos, and the blending of stellar country voices is what Heroes, Mentors, and Friends is all about.

Beyond her one-of-a-kind voice that matches perfectly with classic country, Amber Digby’s gift is selecting songs from the country music canon that compliment this asset perfectly, but haven’t been worn out yet in the everyday carousel of country standards. Aside from “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” which she sings with Loretta Lynn, you may not recognize many of the tunes unless you’re a die hard traditional country fan, though you will warm up to them soon enough.

Singing duets isn’t just about taking turns. It’s an art form unto itself, and a tradition in country music. To hear Amber Digby blend with Loretta Lynn, Jeannie Seely, and Jeannie C. Riley is a treat all its own. As legendary as Willie Nelson is as a duet partner, he’s also probably the most difficult duet partner in country history since he insists on singing in such unique pentameters. But Amber Digby was smart to let Willie sing his parts, and then match her voice to his for a pretty spectacular performance of “It Should Be Easier Now.”

And similar to the album Bridges by Mary Sarah from 2012 that also featured country legends singing on classic songs, these projects capture important artists in important moments. Where Mary Sarah featured Ray Price, Freddy Powers, and Lynn Anderson right before they passed, Amber Digby’s duet with Johnny Bush on “I’ll Warm by the Flame” was one of his final recordings. And with Tommy Detamore and Justin Trevino producing, the music of the album leans towards flawless.

Both a rite of passage and a passion project, Heroes, Mentors, and Friends may not redefine country music or be the most original release of the year. And for some some more modern country fans, the material may be a little to arcane for their ears.

But what Amber Digby does on Heroes, Mentors, and Friends is what she has been doing her entire career, which is paying the songs, traditions, and influences of true country music forward. Only now she’s doing it with the direct help of the artists she’s been toasting, tributing, and keeping alive in modern music for many years. And that’s exactly what many true country music fans want from today’s performers.

7.5/10

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TRACK List:

  1. Texas Dancehall Girl (feat. Jerry Naill)
  2. You Go Around (feat. Johnny Rodriguez)
  3. It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels (feat. Loretta Lynn)
  4. I’m Hangin’ Around (feat. The Whites)
  5. Today Is Not The Day (feat. Jeannie Seely)
  6. It Should Be Easier Now (feat. Willie Nelson)
  7. I’ll Warm By The Flame (feat. Johnny Bush)
  8. The Heart He Kicks Around (feat. Jeannie C. Riley)
  9. Take Back It’s Over (feat. Larry Gatlin)
  10. Soft Lights & Hard Country Music (feat. Moe Bandy)
  11. Under These Conditions (feat. Vince Gill)
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