It's been an interesting trajectory for Amy Speace. Mentored by both Judy Collins and Ian Hunter - an unlikely combination if ever there was one - she won the praises of NPR and luminaries like Nanci Griffith and Guy Clark, each of whom tapped her to open for them on tour. Her string of albums have indicated she's worthy of such high regard, but her latest, "How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat," offers the definitive proof that further kudos would be well justified.
Produced by Neilson Hubbard - who also helped helm her last outing, the magnificent "Land Like a Bird" - and featuring all-star support from other up-and-comers like John Fulbright, Mary Gauthier and Ben Sollee, the new album demonstrates Speace's continued confidence as both a singer and songwriter. It's no coincidence that Speace spent her early years studying theater, because within this rich melodic tapestry, there's a vibrant emotional brew that betrays a knowing perspective. Several songs - Lullabye Under the Willow and the title track in particular - offer little more a simple plea, while others - Perfume and Feathers & Wishbones - are striking in both their beauty and fragility. And yet despite that seemingly low-cast perspective, this isn't an album that's marked by melancholia. Rather, for all its delicacy and deliberation, it offers stirring sentiments that aren't to be denied. It's music that creeps under the skin and once there, it isn't easily dislodged.
Even early on in her career, there was never any doubt about Speace's ability to deliver. With "How To Sleep in a Stormy Boat," she's clearly making some waves at last.