From the opening lines of Dog Days, Amy Speace establishes herself as a compelling storyteller. This is supposedly a sophomore effort, but the work is as mature and introspective as it is accessible. It's one of those wonderful albums that refuses to be genre bound. At times, she evokes Shawn Colvin; others, Martina McBride or even Shelby Lynne.
Like them, Speace's rich vocals are supported with interestingly varied arrangements in songs with smart, evocative lyrics. Better is notable for its twangy guitars, mandolin touches and sweet farfisa provided by her backing band, The Tearjerks. Following it is the moody Blue Horizon, which feels intimately confessional as do many of the song lyrics. Haven't Learned a Thing is a gentle fingerpicked tune that starts with Speace taking a personal inventory - "I have failed and I have fallen, cried 'til I was bawling/Been down so low my face was on the tiles." By the song's conclusion, is it any wonder that her voice is unsteady as she recounts her perceived shortcomings? Unsteady, but strong.
Other standouts includeSomething More Than Rain, Dog Days and Piece by Piece. There is more to be found with each listen, whether it's a beautifully taught lyric or an unexpected horn line tucked in an arrangement.
"The Killer in Me" portends a musical journey of exuberant catharsis ahead for those who continue to keep up with Speace.