Amy Speace returns with her new album Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne, a powerful exploration of hope, dreams and family. Produced again by Neilson Hubbard, the album is a wonderful showcase of her poetic lyrics and stunning vocals.
The sweeping title track begins the record, inspired by some soul searching she did about her career as an artist. I dream because I know I’m running out of time, she sings. What we leave behind when we go is her concern, and she hopes her songs and words will be remembered.
Grace of God is an admission of sins and sorrow, a confession of her faults. Despite her demons she clings to hope and has nowhere to go but down on her knees to pray. Faith is also central on Both Feet on the Ground, where singing to the heavens helps to keep her grounded.
On Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones she tells the story of a girl waiting for an abortion, eating and drinking to fill up the emptiness inside of her. It’s a serious, somber song which offers empathy and shows the humanity of such a decision.
Understanding others is also the theme of Pretty Girls, a quietly devastating song about feeling inadequate and having low self-esteem. The narrator envies the beautiful girls, observes them, seeing these girls as though they are almost another species. Must feel so different in their world/ Wish I could have been a pretty girl. By the end of the song she realises these ‘pretty girls’ might feel the same way about her too.
Domestic troubles and family problems are central to some of these songs. Icicle King explores the power of the imagination as a place of refuge from violence. Back in Abilene takes us to the sixties for a story of a difficult childhood. Most of these songs are sad and serious but Some Dreams Do suggests that maybe not everything is hopeless. Wishes do come true, sometimes.
Emily Dickinson is the inspiration for This And My Heart Beside, and that’s fitting for an album so poetic and profound. Using her poem ‘It’s All I Have To Bring Today’ as the opening verse on the song, Speace honours Emily’s words and gives them to us as an offering. Maybe we don’t always have much, but if we can have art and heart then that’s all any of us really need.
The album closes on a song called Kindness, a song which originally featured on Ben Glover’s album. It’s another moment of hope and longing for a better future. May you know Kindness, and may Kindness know you. Every word is sung directly from the heart.
Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne is a quiet prayer of hope, proving Speace to be a songwriter of real wisdom and depth.