The Taking Shape EP
So here is a four-tracker from Mary Spender, all titles self-written and produced by Jake Bright, who does play on the cuts, accompanied by Ian Bostic and Rob Grist. An acoustic guitar at the core of the songs, the clear vocal delivery to the fore and care taken to make each number have an atmosphere of its own.
Taking Shape takes steady and almost stark stabbing tempo for its setting, with the singing floating above the pump of the beat. The singing twists and turns with no histrionics but urgency aplenty. This is one way love can sound, in this lady’s hands and beautiful it surely is. The song ends on an almost eerie resolve.
Long Island City has the voice in less insistent form, spinning a town tale and the occasional hint of huskiness in the delivery. The melody rides a soft stomp. Somehow I am reminded of Joni Mitchell, maybe she’s an influence? The electric guitar at @ 3:00 is deftly handled. I’d have flanged it, for some air. The longing in Spender’s voice makes you want to run and join her, hold her hand. A lovely tale, reverbs just right.
Safe And Sound is night music, a story of regret. A really conspiratorial bit of singing and the chilled setting adds to the lonesome vibe. I have no notes, sounds like she has layered the vocal on this recording. That or she has uncredited sisters? It’s a solemn piece, as delivered here but nonetheless quite addictive.
Primrose is altogether snappier, making a good closing track. The vocal is less intense and I really like her in this lower register, as the breathier delivery just draws the listener in. It’s almost like a gentler Tracy Chapman in places. Melodically this song is the peach in the bowl, here.
So what might this material sound like in a live performance? I guess we shall wait for her pending London show to find out. These are beguiling songs, strong on impact and free of affectation, pretty much sounding to this reviewer like a string of short stories. Always room for that approach, as Suzanne Vega proved.
(Thanks to Glenn Sargeant)
Mary Spender’s EP ‘The Taking Shape’ EP is out now independently.
In addition, Mary will be embarking on a headline UK Tour in March 2018. For tickets, music and more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2CiST1t