Friday, July 18, 2008
I've never understood the Tucson-Europe connection that's made bands like Calexico, Giant Sand and Greyhound Soul more successful in Italy, Spain and Germany than they are in their hometown. So the fact that a French singer-songwriter would relocate here is extra mysterious.
But Naim Amor, born and raised in Paris, made the leap, moving to Tucson in 1995 at the suggestion of countrywoman Marianne Dissard, who'd already settled here, and soon met Howe Gelb and Joey Burns of Giant Sand. He played for years with Thomas Belhom as the Amor Belhom Duo before setting out to record as a solo artist.
The "what the hell?" attitude that led to the move has brought Amor plenty of opportunity. To him, Tucson has strong parallels to New York City's artistic awakening in the 1960s, when folk and rock musicians, painters and filmmakers alike could all settle in a tight-knit area and, more importantly, get by with cheap rent. The space and time afforded musicians and artists by that sort of low overhead is the key to the sort of creative atmosphere that Amor described to KCRW when he gave an in-studio performance last week.
Singing in French, and sometimes English, Amor has a troubadour style that definitely recalls the type of classic French pop that Wes Anderson finds captivating. He has a typically laid back approach, with a strummed or finger-picked electric guitar and a quiet, languorous singing style that isn't too far from Sam Beam of Iron & Wine. But don't think Amor's 13 years in the desert don't also show up in the songs. There's also this atmospheric spaciousness that isn't quite desert rock, but neither does it sound like Amor is singing from the nightlife of Paris.
Amor's KCRW performance drew mostly from his latest record Sanguine, the Joey Burns-produced disc that caught the taste-making Santa Monica station's attention. But he did throw in a nifty version of "It's Not Easy Being Green." Demitri Manos of Golden Boots and Tom Walbank's Ambassadors sat in on drums for the spare and intimate performance.
Amor has two upcoming Tucson shows, July 24 at Plush (with La Cerca) and July 29 at the Arts Incubator Gallery, next to Grill on Congress.
Listen to Naim Amor's KCRW performance/interview here.
Amor Belhom Duo - Elevator Baby
Naim Amor - Les Bruits (from Sanguine)
Naim Amor - La Javanaise (live Solar Culture, 2001)
Get the whole 2001 show live at Solar Culture here.Naim Amor Live w/ Calexico and Friends from TucsonScene.com on Vimeo.