Amie Comeaux's death in a car crash at the age of just 21 robs the world of country music of a promising talent. A petite blonde, vocally reminiscent of older and earlier stars like Lorrie Morgan and Patsy Cline, she had lately begun to re- establish her career after a disappointing association with a major Nashville record label and was rapidly gaining a fan base in Europe.
Born in Brusly, Louisiana, a suburb of Baton Rouge close to the Mississippi river, she began performing seriously from the age of eight, after an aunt who worked in the jewellery department of a Baton Rouge J.C. Penney store used her niece's singing to attract customers. Appearances at J.C. Penney in-store fashion shows and at shopping malls followed, and she became a regular fixture, performing the national anthem at New Orleans Saints football games.
The Nashville producer Harold Shedd saw her in a local production of Annie when she was 11 and, impressed and believing that she could enjoy dual careers as both a singer and an actress, signed her to a development deal. Six years later, when he became head of Polydor-Nashville, he brought her on board.
The resulting album, Moving Out (1994), was produced by Shedd and David Briggs, and featured leading Music City session musicians, including Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Bruce Bouton and Rob Hajacos. It spawned three singles: the upbeat title song "Moving Out", "Blue" (not the Bill Mack song of that name) and "Who's She to You", the video for which gained airplay on Country Music Television Europe and introduced her to country music fans in Britain. None proved the breakthrough hit she needed and, although her version of the Pee Wee King/Redd Stewart standard "You Belong To Me" in particular suggested real interpretative depth, she was quietly dropped by a label that seemed uncertain what to do with her.
Having maintained a loyal home-state following, she returned to Louisiana and continued to gig regularly. Last year however, she headed back to Nashville and, knowing that she needed to re-establish herself in the city, started demoing songs for the Herb Alpert-owned publishing company Almo-Irving. She also toured the UK, headlining the annual Good 'n' Country Festival at Wrotham Heath, Kent. I had the good fortune to see her perform there and was impressed, as was the crowd, by an assured and confident set; even a pair of disruptive power cuts seemed barely to faze her and, to wild applause, she sang the final part of the Patsy Cline classic "Crazy" a cappella.
Amie Comeaux was due to return to Britain, in the company of the Scottish singer Janette Somers, later this year.