Listening intently – okay, hanging on each successive inviting syllable – to folk, country and Americana influenced singer/songwriter Amilia K Spicer, I found myself alternately soothed and seduced, then electrified. It was the haunting duskiness of her voice, backed by gentle acoustic and occasionally fiery electric guitars animating her expansive emotional playground.
Yet I kept coming back to the crazy-cool, stick to the soul images of a few of her lyrics, particularly “Running my whole life trying to get to the other side/I dream of the Serengeti/Chased by lions while the ravens fly” (from the sparse and subtly exotic, Native American and African flavored acoustic tune “Shotgun”) and “The water’s deep with whiskey here in Echo Park/Tiger, tiger in a tree – why you always watching me” from the trippy, “beatboxy” and bluesy pre-Taylor Swift composed “Shake It Off.” “Shine,” which begins as a whispery acoustic tune before exploding with a deeper, rockin’ sense of purpose, is another road trip song where we get “Close to El Paso/the sky split in half.”
A little Googling revealed why she could paint such realistic yet offbeat images in song – her many years in the film industry, directing projects while penning songs for well-known shows and obscure films. It struck me as odd that someone of such deep talent and effortless songwriting whimsy would delay some 14 years between musical releases – but maybe that’s the nature of true art. It bubbles and simmers until it’s ready. Perhaps it takes that many years of ups and downs, heartaches, heartbreaks and world travels (in Spicer’s case, two life changing journeys to Southeast Asia with a friend making a doc about Nepal’s Civil War). She has said that she was looking for “new sounds and a new sanctuary” to share and protect her deepest heart, and the results really make you stop and listen.
And stop, listen and learn again - not just to her dark-tinged vocals as she weaves her poetic spin on life, but what they’re surrounded by – a bit of plucky Appalachian music (“Fill Me Up”), bolts of edgy rock guitar “Lightning” and haunting ambience (“Windchill”). There’s a sense throughout that she’s in flux, changing from one place and life to another, hitting the road so she can “Shine” brighter, looking for “the end of the rainbow/Down to the bone.” She’s had her “Train Wreck,” she’s learned to “Shake It Off” and then in the anthem-like singalong “This Town,” she finds a sort of home where she will no longer “pick her poison” or “be defined.”
On a happy final musical note, Spicer – a longtime piano player – picked up the guitar and other string instruments for the first time during the production of Wow and Flutter. It also features top musicians who have collectively worked with The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Son Volt, Lone Justice and Lucinda Williams. For those who are curious, Wow and Flutter is an expression that refers to pitch and speed variations. Metaphorically, it may just apply to how you feel when you open your heart to encounter this extraordinary singer/songwriter for the first time.