I Predict a Graceful Expulsion
Much as American fans of roots and blues music would love to lay claim to Canada’s mysteriously named Al Spx (performing as Cold Specks), we just can’t do it. Although her powerful vocal style, subdued guitar picking, and sorrow-filled lyrics owe as much to giants of American blues, gospel, and folk as they do to her contemporary influences like Tom Waits and Smog's Bill Callahan, Cold Specks originally hails from the Toronto area. (She now lives in London.) This impressive, full-bodied debut—replete with cello, flugelhorn, electric guitars, keyboards, a gospel choir, and more—is a carefully nuanced blend of light and dark, regret and hope, despair and celebration. The soul-stirring, hymnal refrain of songs like “Winter Solstice” and “Reeling the Liars In,” the chilling, bluesy power of “Lay Me Down” and “Holland,” and the sultry, seductive call of “Hector” reflect the hair-raising, evocative powers of artists like Cat Powers and PJ Harvey. That may be due partly to the arrangements here by PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis, along with those of noted jazz producer Jim Anderson. Yet the spirit of the whole is 100 percent stone Cold Specks.