Everything comes together beautifully on Spencer's new album: words, melodies, sounds, arrangements, instruments, it just keeps going from one shining moment to the next, and usually two or three together. Gleaned from winter writing sessions over the past three years, the songs have that reflective quality we all know from the shorter days and deeper moods. Winter and nature shows up often, and they almost all offer observed stories, personal and those of friends, that touch our own deepest feelings.
Spencer's own production, captured by engineer Lil Thomas (Mike Hastings on "In The City"), is warm and cozy, usually centered around her vocals, piano and light drums and brushes from Jordi Comstock. It's uncluttered and clear, allowing each sound to stand out. Wonderful choices were made for the solo instruments, such as Luke Fraser's mandolin in "Lunenburg Moon," the heart-touching French horn from Sarah Kasprzak, and David Campbell's pedal steel on Coyote. When background and harmony vocals are used, they lift the songs to new heights.
The emotional heart of the album can be found in cuts four and five, "In The City" and "Training To Fly." Spencer's descriptions in the former recall the vivid writing of Rufus Wainwright in his songs such as "Art Teacher," as she tells about moving from home to the city (in this case, Halifax), going from warm memories to sad events, highlights to youthful mistakes: "My mom cried, and Lady Di died the day I left for college/Where I stayed up too late writing papers and faking my knowledge." "Training To Fly" makes the easy and welcome comparison of young Canada Geese learning their flight to mothers seeing their children leave the nest: "Sometimes I can't tell if I'm still in my shell/or I've started stretching my wings.
She's not all bunnies and hearts and flowers either; "Coyote" falls in the 'nature can be cruel' category, as a cross-country skier meets a grisly fate in the woods. But even that is an affirmation of nature's way, how we fit in and how it rules our hearts.