Album Review of Amilia K Spicer: Wow and Flutter
When I hear new music, I generally get a sense very quickly of whether or not the artist is someone I’d like to review. When I first heard Wow and Flutter, I immediately knew Amilia K Spicer was special, that her voice and sound were unique enough and performed professionally enough that I wanted to share them with the Blog‘s readers. But as is often the case with this style of laid-back Americana, it takes a few listens before my favorite songs begin to emerge.
Stylistically, the music is a traditional country-rooted sound with wide-open musical spaces. It’s at the softer edge of the style I used to call California country a couple decades ago but with a Western twist. The laid-back, sometimes melancholy songs are the sort I could picture being sung around a campfire, maybe in the desert, more likely after a day of driving cattle. Amilia’s voice is at times a sultry half-whisper, always smooth, with a broad range when called upon, always more impactful than such a soft, often high voice would seem that it should be. On the countryness scale of the Americana spectrum, I’d consider Amilia’s music to be more Americana than Karen Nash but perhaps a little more country than Bridget Davis and the Viking Kings.
Album-opener “Fill Me Up” draws upon those traditional, old-country roots, with a washboard-like sound, along with bass and violin and an old-school knee-slapping rhythm supporting Amilia’s drawn-out, soft vocals. I almost wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the band was playing a little brown jug. It is the one of Amilia’s songs most obviously driven by the sort of gentle-yet-insistent engine that Bridget Davis is famous for, and it’s a great attention-getting tune to start the disc, offering a bit of variety.
“Harlan” is great selection to follow “Fill Me Up,” as it incorporates some of the same elements while moving the “engine” to a less prominent position, leaning more on Amilia’s unique, sometimes softly wailing style of crooning and her halfway-haunting vocal whispers. In fact, her melodic moans – or, perhaps, tuneful wails – are what you’ll find yourself soon singing along to on “Harlan.” It’s really cool, unlike anything you’re likely to hear often elsewhere, and memorable; this will be one of your favorite songs once you’ve given it enough listens that you’ve started to sing – or moan – along.
Other songs stand out, too. In fact, in their own way, all of the songs do, driven by Amilia’s exceptional attention to detail in her songwriting and in the music’s arrangement. “This Town” is a relatively straightforward slow-to-mid-tempo country music number that shows off Amilia’s range and vocal sensitivity. “Lightning” stands out for its wall-of-sound music bed supporting Amilia’s layered vocals. And on “Windchill” the music and vocals sport a soaring, flowing, Stevie Nicks “Landslide”-ish vibe.
“Shake It Off” is another potential hit, IMHO, with a bit of a Stray Cats-with-a-lava-lamp blend of rhythm and psychedelic-era distorted guitar and electric organ relatively sparsely instrumenting the background. This would be the country/Americana tune you’d be most likely to hear in a blues joint.
Second-to-last on the disc is probably my favorite song, “What I’m Saying.” It has a 1980s Athens college rock undertone below the slow-to-mid-tempo, soft rockin’ Americana flavor featuring a jangly, almost Jimmy Buffett-esque-at-times guitar. Combined, its slightly psychedelic flavor supports Amilia’s soft, almost sultry vocal line. And the song itself builds slowly into a warm, comforting, almost feel-good track.
The album lands softly with an extremely original, suitable ballad. “Shine” may have a very slow pace, but it’s powerful, hopeful, defiant, and I’m sure likely to be a common choice for favorite song on this disc. A strong end to an exceptionally well-written, produced, and performed album from a unique talent.
Americana is a crowded genre, but Amilia K Spicer’s Wow and Flutter stands out from the crowd.
Amilia is currently on tour with John Gorka. Per the tour dates page on Amilia’s website, her upcoming dates with John Gorka are: tonight, June 1st at The Bay Theater in Suttons Bay, MI, June 2nd at the Elks Club in Cadillac, MI; June 3rd at Howmet Playhouse in Whitehall, MI; June 4th at Freshwater Art Gallery in Boyne City, MI; June 9th at The Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, MA; and two shows on June 11th at Club Passim in Cambridge, MA. Amilia also has a date listed on July 22nd at the Flint Folk Festival in Flint, MI.