One person’s art is another person’s kitsch.
Stephen Holden, The New York Times
Listening to Amanda McBroom perform her song “The Rose” at the Café Carlyle on Wednesday evening, I pondered the notion that one person’s art is another person’s kitsch. It would be easy to dismiss this beloved inspirational ballad as a greeting-card homily. To me, however, “The Rose” is art: a miraculous burst of empathy that transcends clichés with its concentrated intensity of feeling as it searches for a definition of love.
In the words, “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance/It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes a chance,” it equates the possibility of love with courage. Then it descends through a dark night of the soul in which the songwriter bitterly decides that “love is only for the lucky and the strong.”
But that despair is overtaken by faith: Winter will turn to spring. These words are anchored in an indelible folk tune that seems always to have existed, even though the song was first heard in the late 1970s.
I’ve heard Ms. McBroom sing “The Rose” dozens of times over the years, and each time her interpretation gets deeper into the song’s mysterious heart. Ms. McBroom has a beautiful voice that has become more expressive as it has steadily lowered. And on Wednesday evening she poured more anguish into the song than I’ve ever heard her summon before.
Accompanied on piano by Michele Brourman, her longtime musical director and a gifted songwriter in her own right, and Daniel Fabricant on bass, Ms. McBroom brought the same rending emotional commitment to Jacques Brel’s “Marieke.” Her original song, “Errol Flynn,” written with Gordon Hunt about her father, David Bruce, a movie actor who worked with Flynn and Gary Cooper, was suffused with a wistful tenderness.
The show is a carefully chosen blend of originals and standards wrung from the inside out by a singer who has the dramatic focus of a method actor. For all the naked emotion on display, Ms. McBroom is anything but grim. She has a ripe sense of humor and conveys an innate good cheer. Everything she sings feels grounded in her life experience.
As much as any pop singer I can think of, Ms. McBroom is an American Everywoman sharing her personal wisdom with down-to-earth directness that is easily understood and deeply felt.