Amanda came into my consciousness after she did costumes for my friend and My Real Portland guest Charmian Creagle. Charmian and her husband’s company The Reformers mounted an awesome adaptation of King Lear this year and the costumes were hysterical - made out of Maruchan ramen packages!
Amanda Richards creates her distinctive alternative country music deftly balanced on the fulcrum between tradition and contemporary rock innovation. It has won the Portland, OR-based singer, songwriter, musician and entertainer an Independent Music Award, six first-round Grammy nominations, critical acclaim, international attention, leading light stature on her city's burgeoning neo-roots scene with her band The Good Long Whiles, and devoted fans that savor the sharpness she brings to a wealth of tried and true musical sounds. Over the course of five albums this multi-talented young woman has risen to become an artist making her mark in Americana and beyond. As critic Paul Riley declares in England's Country Music People, "Right now I regard Amanda Richards one of country music's most important singers."
She certainly has stamped her singular imprint with her 2011 release, Play Dead, a wry and delightfully frightening musical indie zombie flick in song that prompted Willamette Week to observe, "If Sam Raimi and Bonnie Raitt had a baby, it might turn out an awful lot like Amanda Richards." Her deft feel for the finest old-school country, rock, blues and folk strains is something she comes by honestly and in fact genetically as the granddaughter of Rusty Richards, who sang and played with cowboy music legends The Sons of the Pioneers for nearly two decades and is the patriarch of a family musical lineage Amanda now advances into the third generation. It takes just a listen to agree with the Portland Tribune that she "not only sings her heart out and picks guitar, she’s also pretty dang funny," and, as Whisperin and Hollerin declares, "is a fine storyteller, narrating her tales of heartache with a brutally honest pen."
Born into music in Orange County, CA while her father led one the area's leading outlaw C&W acts, Jason Richards & the Silverado Band, Amanda was stepping up onstage to sing with her father at his standing shows at Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and other Southern California venues from soon after she started to walk. As she explains, "Music has been my whole thing my whole life" – alongside such other artistic pursuits as a henna body artist, interior designer, muralist and more – "and I got really comfortable when I was really young singing in front of people." At age 17 Richards played her first paid solo show: four hours onstage that earned her $400. "After that every other gig I did was easy."
Not much later she made her recorded debut in 2001 with an EP, Last Train, followed by the albums Not Always Sexy (2004) and Live at Mississippi Studios (2006). With Who Has Your Heart in 2009 Richards earned Grammy nominations for Song of the Year, Best Female Country Performance, and two nods each for Record of the Year and Best Country Song. Play Dead won the Best Concept Album Independent Music Award, and was hailed as a "masterpiece... incredible" (Country Music People) and "both sweet and enduring" (Portland Mercury). Two years later she refashioned eight classic Christmas songs into an imaginatively unique holiday album, Bleak Winter.
Richards has become a frequent and popular presence on the Portland live music scene, playing with her band – Steve Moore on lap steel, banjo and guitar, bassist Andrew Clapp and drummer Mark Powers – as well as solo and in duo configurations at such venues as the Aladdin and Alberta Rose Theaters, Laurelthirst Public House and other Portland area clubs. She has been featured on NPR's River City Folk in an hour-long interview and appeared at SXSW 2008 as a finalist in FameCast's Pop Phenom competition live show and webcast. Her Play Dead performances have evolved into musical theater extravaganzas with Amanda and her musicians playing out the story in full undead regalia.
It all adds up to a "bold-voiced artist" (CoOpted), "highly talented songwriter" (Country Music People), alluring live performer who takes audiences on a journey through many different styles and moods, and skilled songwriter whose releases are delicately crafted and beautifully realized. "She’s spellbinding across the spectrum," concludes the Portland Tribune, "and a standout whose star is on the rise."