AMY SPEACE —LAND LIKE A BIRD (Thirty Tigers)
New Jersey-born, but now residing as she has of the last two years in East Nashville singer-songwriter Amy Speace follows up her well received albums Songs For Bright Street (2006) and 2009’s Killer In Me with her best recording yet.
Such is the artistry, strength of material and production of Land Like A Bird I have no fear of contradiction. That the record elevates her popularity to another level. Songs that immediately grabbed my attention with my tip for countless covers include ‘Ghost’ backed by likewise fabulous efforts of ‘Half Asleep & Wide Awake’ and the dreamy ‘It’s Too Late To Call It A Might’ (her vocal intonation and feel of the song harkens back to country music’s vintage years; her stylist qualities akin to the great Patsy Cline!). Like ‘Hard To Lose’ it is a co-write with North Carolina songwriter Jonathan Byrd another wonderful piece of work. Up there with them you have the poetic love song ‘Manila Street’, which is fashioned by eloquent strings (Eamon McLoughlin), keyboards (Dan Mitchell) and cello (David Henry) to wash over the listener with effortless grace.
Lifting up the tempo at exactly the correct moment we have Chuck E. Costa’s ‘Battened Hatches’ aided by busy acoustic guitar, tenor ukelele and wonderful harmony vocals (Ainsley & Iris Donegan). ‘Galbraith Street’ is another cover —this time from esteemed singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith but it her own finely honed songs that struck me hardest. Her ability to transform her carefully carved lyrics into a mood see the likes of ‘Drive All Night’ and the impassioned half-pleading ‘Change For Me’ (as a steady rhythm, restless lead guitar etc accompany her) with it stripped bare she takes the listener through the heart-tugging emotion of leaving one’s past behind. Wrapped in fiddle, acoustic guitar (from producer, engineer, Neilson Hubbard) and piano a story of captivating magnitude unfolds. Speace’s ability to slow a song and make the lyrics become a living item helps take her work to another level.
Going back to her song, ‘Ghost’ —it was the one that broke the ice for me, that is not to say the others are good (and a few better than so) as in one of two co-writes with Hubbard ‘Vertigo’. For it possesses something of a Gretchen Peters feel (effortless) as it builds (and builds) in strength as one gets into the song. What a performance! As for ‘Ghost’ it is a sublime affair possessing hints of Joan Baez and Judy Collins at their best. In fact it contains a great deal of the poetic beauty of Baez’s finest songwriting of the 1970s; one of my favourite periods from Baez's career. Still is still making records too.
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