Amy Speace – Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne

Album Review | Proper Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 5/5

As a former Shakespearean actor, Amy Speace is grounded in the art of bringing stories to life and with the eleven songs on Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne, the Baltimore-born songwriter does precisely that. Often the songs deliver heart wrenching messages in an almost matter-of-fact manner, such as the the achingly melancholy “Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones”, which has no room tears, no heartbreak, just an overwhelming sense of emptiness, where no words are necessary, just a hand to hold. “Pretty Girls” is a meditation on the sort of hopeless envy that plagues the plain among us, with all the unfairness that comes with it and bravo to Amy for even going there.

Written with Jon Vezner, “Back in Abilene” revisits the early 1960s, whilst evoking the despair felt as Walter Cronkite delivers the impassioned news bulletin he’s most remembered for, as life goes on 180 miles to the west of Dallas. All these songs are powerful in their own individual way, with unfussy arrangements and empathetic musicianship from all involved. If Ben Glover’s gorgeous lullaby “Kindness” is a perfect closer, delivering an optimistic message, then the title song “Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne” is the perfect opener, a gentle piano and voice song with almost subliminal strings that builds to something worthy of any torch-lit stadium audience, a beauty of a song that confirms Amy’s credentials as one of America’s most underrated voices at the moment.

Choice Track: “Back in Abilene” (NSV 486)