Amy Speace, The Killer In Me (Wildflower Records, 2009)

A Maryland native currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, Amy Speace first came to my attention in 2006 with her album Songs for Bright Street. It took a bit of time for Speace to produce a follow-up, but her recent divorce left her with plenty of reasons to be preoccupied. As often happens with songwriters facing a difficult real-life situation, Speace took solace in her music. She maintains the same keen wit on The Killer in Me that she showed on her previous album, even if the more light-hearted songs have been replaced by a great deal of catharsis.

Musically speaking, Speace uses the same blend of folk, country, and rock on The Killer in Me that characterized Songs for Bright Street. But the similarities between the two albums end there, as the tone of the new album is much darker. Most of the songs deal with the break-up either implicitly or explicitly, with the title track setting the tone. "The killer in me loves the killer I see in you. The killer in me loves the killer I see in you. I'm gonna tell you what I need, cut so deep just to watch me bleed. The killer in me loves the killer I see in you." Speace offsets the darkness somewhat with a pair of upbeat, positive songs called "This Love" and "Something More Than Rain." On the latter song in particular, she embraces the hope that what she's dealing with now will lead to a much brighter future. Speace doesn't change the subject until the last two songs on the album, but even then the mood doesn't brighten. "Piece by Piece" was written for Speace's father, as a reminder that she's there for him as he deals with the loss of his brother. The remarkable final track, "The Weight of the World," is sung from the point of view of a person who lost her brother in combat. Speace successfully and poignantly conveys the emotion of the situation without getting political or taking a side. Her vocal delivery is so convincing, in fact, that I had to double-check to make sure that she wasn't singing about her own brother.

The Killer in Me is heavy, weighty listening, with most of the songs coming from a very dark place. But Amy Speace is a capable and maturing songwriter, and the album is ultimately a testament to her perseverance. Like the the best songs from performers like Sam Phillips or Beth Orton, the music is quite potent, and ultimately therapeutic.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

a live performance of "The Killer in Me"

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