April 7, 2016
Following a whistle-stop UK tour with Americana supergroup Applewood Road, Amy Speace returned to these shores to showcase her solo material. As fans old and new filled the seats, London’s Surya became an impromptu folk club for the night.
It seems that Speace’s reaction to jet lag falls between clarity, playfulness and whispering secrets: “I am liable to tell you everything.” She clearly knows how to harness symbolism, silence and speed to tell stripped-down stories that alternate between heartbreak and hope.
Speace freely shared the influences and inspiration behind the music, painting a colourful picture of life as a working musician in Nashville. The between song banter gave a clue as to why so many talented artists work with Speace; there’s poetry in her words: “You fall in love with the darkness that you see in somebody…and it holds you there.”
The weekday crowd was in for a treat as talented fiddle player Megan Palmer was on hand throughout to add plaintive notes to Speace’s powerful vocals. Palmer stepped up to the spotlight for one song, showcasing her warm humour, sweet guitar style, falsetto flourishes and a light twang; reminiscent of a countrified Jenny Lewis. Head to www.pledgemusic.com/projects/meganpalmer to help crowdfund her new record.
A special guest had been teased on Twitter; up stepped Applewood Road bandmate Emily Barker to duet on Gimme Love and allude to impressive summer festival bookings.
Speace’s set was full of highlights, including Ghost, Better Than This and Weight of The World. However, the best was saved for last with a touching rendition of Hymn For The Crossing dedicated to Merle Haggard who had died the day before.
Ethan Ash opened the show with a set of original songs centred on themes of love and home. His voice was honeyed and rich, reminiscent of a young James Morrison. The staging was simple but effective, with subtle accents of red, expressive reactions and engaging banter.
Given that Ash was suffering from the early stages of flu during this accomplished performance, he’s undoubtedly one to watch when back to full strength.
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