Amelia Curran Spectators

Amelia CurranSpectators
This prolific Halifax-based songstress won a Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album for her previous record, 2009's Hunter, Hunter. Expect similar acclaim for this highly accomplished disc, one that definitely goes beyond orthodox folk territory. This transition was helped by her decision to record in Toronto, ON, with producer John Critchley, who performed a similar role with Dan Mangan. Horns and strings (arranged by Bryden Baird and Todor Kobakov, respectively) are used to striking effect on a couple of songs, and there's inventiveness in the arrangements. Plaintive horns add to the haunting feel of "What Will You Be Building," "The Great Escape" and "Soft Wooden Towers" are built upon solemn strings and almost funereally slow vocals, while "Blackbird on Fire" is propelled by drums and female voices. The striking purity of Curran's voice doesn't need much embellishing, but guest backing vocals from Selina Martin, Oh Susanna (on the gorgeous "Strangers") and the Once are used judiciously. An all-star cast of guitarists includes Martin Tielli, David Baxter and Critchley. Curran's sense of adventure extends to her lyrics, which are by turns philosophical and intimately personal, as on the heartbreak/earthquake metaphor of "San Andreas Fault." This is simply superb stuff. (Six Shooter)