She is but one person with one instrument, be it a piano or a guitar, but Amber Rubarth is mesmerizing. Anyone who has heard her records knows that the voice that goes through their speakers is Rubarth’s true sound with little to no alteration, as she hits every note without fail. Not too bad for someone who used to make wooden sculptures with a chainsaw.
You would never expect that out of the soft-spoken girl who mumbled between songs, and got so excited about performing that she stood on her tiptoes while playing. Rubarth moved to Carson City, NV after high school to pursue wood sculpting before completely changing directions and learning how to play guitar. After a couple of open mics, Rubarth found residency in a coffeehouse in Reno, NV, and in 2010, she won the Mountain Stage Newsong Contest.
Rubarth humbly mentioned this in a break in her set, failing to hide her excitement of winning the prize of working with producer Jacquire King (Kings Of Leon, Arcade Fire, Norah Jones) on her new album due out this spring. It was adorable.
When Rubarth took to the piano to play “Rough Cut” off her New Green Lines LP, the whole venue was focused on her. City Winery, with its restaurant setting, is a place prone to distraction, but not while Rubarth sang. Her voice filled the space, which seemed to shock most in attendance who underestimated the tiny, young girl onstage, who comfortably floated from low, alto-range notes to a high, lofty soprano.
Feeling the need to justify each song, Rubarth showed her quirkiness, as each one took inspiration from unexpected places. “This Is Real,” for example, was written during a long-distance relationship that ended before she returned back to the city where her ex was based. Though quirky, she was never overly so. Rubarth gave each explanation sheepishly, barely moving her mouth, frequently looking down at her instrument, then started singing, erasing any awkward tension that may have taken place, and making the audience fall in love with her a little more each time.