If, like me, you cherish abiding nostalgia for the long-gone heyday of the great female singer/songwriter, you definitely need to acquaint yourself with the work of one of the younger generation of practitioners who’ll be performing in our region this weekend. Her name is Amy Speace, and she wields an impressive set of pipes that have been compared to her forebears Judy Collins (who put out a couple of Speace’s CDs on her own record label) and Lucinda Williams. NPR has described her singing style as “grounded but wounded.” Think of a more technically pristine Karla Bonoff, or a more soulful, dramatically powerful Priscilla Herdman. Her songwriting may remind you a bit of the late Kate Wolf, and Linda Ronstadt’s more countryish efforts come close in vocal timbre.
But it would be an oversimplification to pigeonhole Speace as a folk or country singer. Her taste and her songwriting style span the genres, and her most recent recording, How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat, is largely fueled by her years as an actor/director/playwright touring with the National Shakespeare Company. Written while she was giving her stressed-out vocal cords a rest after losing her voice for a couple of months, each song takes off from a line or two in one of the Bard’s plays: The title number is inspired by the storm scene in King Lear, for example, and “We Are the Fortunate Ones” puts a fresh spin on Henry V ’s “band of brothers” pep talk before the Battle of Agincourt.
Accompanied by Megan Palmer on fiddle and vocals, Speace will play guitar and sing at the Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia this Saturday evening, May 17. Though she’s Nashville-based nowadays, she has a personal connection to the area: The songs on her 2009 CD The Killer in Me were composed in a small Catskills cabin that Speace rented while licking her wounds following a romantic breakup. Apparently the emotional trauma didn’t leave too many scars, because this gig is Speace’s second at the renovated 19th century railway-station-turned-intimate-music-venue.
Showtime will be at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 at the door, $13 for the Fortunate Ones who reserve in advance by calling Flying Cat Music at (845) 688-9453 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. While you await this tasty musical evening, you can check out Speace’s oeuvre at www.amyspeace.com, or hear her being interviewed on All Things Considered about her creative process making How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat at www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=177988757&m=178300018.
Amy Speace in concert, Friday, May 17, 7:30 p.m., $15/$13, Empire State Railway Museum, 70 Lower High Street, Phoenicia; (845) 688-9453, email@example.com.