Amy Speace — Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne (6th Sept., 2019) Pamela MÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃéndez ÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃÃâ Time (22 Feb 2019)Location: Baltimore, Maryland ~~ Nashville, TN
Album release: 6th September, 2019
Record Label: Proper Records
Duration:     47:16
01 Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne   4:44
02 Grace of God   6:13
03 Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones   3:21
04 Pretty Girls   4:09
05 Standing Rock Standing Here   5:21
06 Both Feet on the Ground   3:26
07 Icicle King   5:37
08 Back in Abilene   4:01
09 Some Dreams Do   4:57
10 This and My Heart Beside   2:05
11 Kindness   4:05
℗ 2019 Proper Records
✹      “Amy Speace is on a roll. Each new release has brought an expansion of her voice and her art, and she has reached the level of absolute mastery. Her new record Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne is brilliant. The song ‘Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones’ is a masterpiece, a hard hitting gut punch on every level voice, melody, words, performance, instrumentation. I nominate it for song of the year, and predict that this song will bring legions of new fans to Amy’s work. Folk music doesn’t get any better than this.” — Mary Gauthier
✹      “Amy has such a unique and beautiful way of expressing her truth. The sublime soulfulness of her voice and deeply honest poetry of her songs make her a vital artist for these times.” — Ben Glover
✹      “Amy Speace writes songs that few artists can pull off. Following in the footsteps of the most traditional storytelling troubadours, she writes epic songs about our ghosts, our dreams, and our hope for salvation in it all. But like the best writers, she always makes the listener feel like she wrote each song for them personally.” — Neilson Hubbard
✹      “There is a beautifully balanced tension and bitter~sweet throughout ‘Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne’ in which the writer artfully sets up questions and subtly hints at answers in a sophisticated storytelling style that Speace is known for. Delivered with a soaring, gutsy and at times, gorgeously vulnerable voice, these songs have a finely~spun political thread to them that weave stories of women’s experiences of abortion, motherhood, life on the road away from family, the burden of comparison and expectations of how we should look. A powerful and alluring record.” — Emily Barker
✹      Her latest album is yet another masterpiece, songs about the clash between dreams and reality, of trials and triumphs and trying to make sense of life with its swings and roundabouts.
✹     Produced by Neilson Hubbard, featuring regular collaborators Kris Donegan and Will Kimbrough on guitars and Eamon McLoughlin on violin, and recorded in the final weeks of her successful IVF pregnancy at the age of 50, the title track was written in 2017 while in Aachen on a tour in Germany. The locals said she had to visit the cathedral where the bones of the Emperor Charlemagne are interred, but she was too tired to make the trip. However, that night the cathedral bells kept her awake and out came the lyrics, now set to a simple piano arrangement and an almost hymnal melody, the lyrics reflecting the strain of life on the road with its “ rental cars and chain motels, cafes with clever names”.
The song goes on to find her question whether what she does is worth what it costs, that while “We all want to leave behind/A thing that says that we were here before we die” there’s always the nagging doubt that, be you an Emperor or a singer, “We’re all carpenters, hammering at nails/Building arks, chasing after whales/Tilting at windmills, hunting the grail”. She can rest assured, she’s found it here.
✹     Stretching out pas the six~minute mark and with terrific piano work by Danny Mitchell, the waltz~time Grace of God is again imbued with a spiritual musical influence and finds her wearied and full of doubt (“I’ve had demons/ I’ve chased down the end of my rope/Clear to the bottom clinging to hope/With nowhere to go”), the lover “sneaking away from the crime/And the gossip reporting every secret but mine”. But at the end of the day, down on her knees, “worn down by the weight” when “there’s nowhere left to hide”, there’s the realisation that “Sometimes you just gotta wade through the shit”, and that, whether it’s a lover or faith, “you don’t have to do it alone”.
✹     The marvellously titled and sparsely arranged, emotionally compelling Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones keep the superlatives coming on a song, David Henry on cello, in which the narrator has to face the crowds protesting outside an abortion clinic and how sometimes just a “little bit of sweet and fizz” can fill up the emptiness.
✹    Self~doubt clings to the lyrics of the initially simply strummed but gradually swelling Pretty Girls, a kindred spirit to Janis Ian’s At Seventeen as she sings how “Pretty girls are everywhere” while “the rest of us lean close and hover/Envy them their side~swept hair”, achingly adding “I wish I could have been a pretty girl”. And yet, it ends with the realisation that such insecurities may be universal as “ maybe they are looking at me too/Wondering what the pretty girls do”.
✹     Co~written with Jonathan Byrd, the slow march Standing Rock Standing Here is named for the Sioux nation reservation in Dakota with its images of “razor wire and a concrete fence/Surveillance planes and drones” and specifically references the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline which they believed would put their water supply from the Missouri river at risk. With “yurts and borrowed army tents” the only protection again against rubber bullets, concussion grenades and water cannons under the command of “a stockholder President”, years from now, the singer images the children asking, “When the cameras left and signs came down/Which side of the water were you on?”
She returns to personal concerns for the Both Feet On The Ground, a piano accompanied reminder to stay grounded that recalls the musical mood of Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection.
✹     Things take a different lyrical course with Icicle King, a marvellous number that, Hubbard on rumbling drums, draws on the expansiveness of a child’s imagination, paddling a rowboat across an infinite sea, rocketing into the sky, flying on a carpet borrowed from Zeus and surfing with the angels “who didn’t believe I was seven”. Only as it gets towards the end do you catch your breath as you realise it’s about a kid taking refuge from the domestic violence of an abusive father in a fantasy kingdom where “there’s no shouting at all/And a promise is kept and love doesn’t fall away”.
✹     A co~write with Jon Vezner, etched on acoustic guitar and hesitant piano, the narrator of Back In Abilene travels back to 1963 when she was 13, to the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War with memories of the local cinema with its double feature where she remembers “They’d run a short reel right before/Listing the casualties of war/I knew half the names up on that screen” of the trains hat never stopped in her town, of a father who’s become a mean drunk with his buddies after church and of how she couldn’t wait to turn 18 and “fill my car with maps and gasoline”.
✹     From troubled memories to reverie, the jaunty midtempo Some Dreams Do has her joined on vocals by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Ben Glover with its images of summer heat, waving wheat, lying in the backyard under the stars or sitting in porch rocking chairs and remembering when you were kids and “the world was ours with just one wish” and how “Some dreams run through our fingers/Like sand spilled on the ground/And some just hang there like heirlooms handed down” as we “stretch the years as long as they can last/Another dance, another chance at bat”.
✹     The American poet Emily Dickinson is enlisted to provide the title and first verse of the penultimate This And My Heart Beside, a plaintive song of love and offering that perfectly sets the scene for the final song, a piano~backed cover of Ben Glover’s tender benediction Kindness from his Shorebound album on which she was one of his female duet partners the line “may kindness know you” seems especially pertinent in the light of the self~questioning here.
Studio Albums:
•   Fable (2002)
•   Songs For Bright Street (2006)
•   The Killer In Me (2009)
•   Land Like A Bird (2011)
•   How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat (2013)
•   That Kind of Girl (March 3rd, 2015)
•   Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne (6th Sept., 2019)
•   Into The New EP (2010)