Amy Speace, Songs For Bright Street (Wildflower Records, 2006)

Baltimore native Amy Speace has been living in New Jersey and performing on the folk circuit in New York City (along with Hoboken and Jersey City) for several years. She recorded her second album Songs for Bright Street with her backing band the Tearjerks, consisting of James Mastro (guitars, producer), Richard Feridun (guitar, banjo, lap steel, keyboards), Matt Lindsey (bass and backing vocals), and Jagoda (drums). Speace's songs straddle the line between folk and alternative country. The field of female singer-songwriters armed with acoustic guitars is rather crowded, and about half of the songs here would fit well, if inconspicuously, on albums by people like Dar Williams or Shawn Colvin. It's on the other half of the disc, where Speace either shows her edgy side or delves more deeply into country music, that she really shines as a singer and writer. On "Not The Heartless Kind," a lively rocker propelled by some fierce slide guitar work from Mastro, Speace threatens all sorts of retribution against an ex-lover but seems reluctant to make good on her warnings. "The Real Thing" is a classic anthem of female defiance, which deservedly got the loudest reactions when I saw her perform live and is most likely Speace's best chance for significant airplay. The countrified cover of Blondie's "Dreaming" is a brilliant re-interpretation; generally the best indicator of a well-written song is if it still works in a completely different arrangement than the original performers intended, and that's clearly the case here. Speace also shows her sense of humor with "Double Wide Trailer," a song about a woman from up north whose car breaks down on her way to visit friends in North Carolina, and winds up being rescued in more ways than one by the classic stereotypical southern man.

Amy Speace is an artist with plenty of things to say, and she says them very effectively on Songs for Bright Street. This album will obviously appeal to WFUV listeners, but Speace's songs have enough edge and wit to reach a broader audience as well.

Overall grade: A-


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