Published Nov 17, 2014Suzanne Jarvie's crisp, clean voice, reminiscent of Lucinda Williams', lends itself nicely to the straight-ahead Americana of her debut album, Spiral Road. This collection of story songs, speaking to tragedy and endurance, grew out of a mother's nightmare, Jarvie's son being seriously injured after falling down a spiral staircase. That sort of experience makes for a different kind of love song, full of desperation, loss, light and tenderness. The title track isn't nearly the best song on the record; instead, the bombastically named "Enola Gay" stands out lyrically, as does the slow ballad "Shrieking Shack." And the opening track, "Before and After," is arguably eclipsed by the closing "Before and After Redux," which puts Jarvie's vocals front and centre, and features Mickey Raphael's creative harmonica.
Produced by Hugh Christopher Brown (of Bourbon Tabernacle Choir fame), the album is beautifully arranged, with an all-star cast of guest musicians, including the Abrams brothers, John on mandolin and James on fiddle, the Holmes Brothers on gospel choir-worthy harmony vocals and Burke Carroll's always-tasteful pedal steel. On a few tracks it seems like Jarvie holds back a bit vocally, but perhaps she's saving a little something for her second record. One can only hope. (Independent)