Annie Gallup Courage My Love

Seeing “spoken word” in the press release for this album made me a little hesitant — when I see that term I half expect navel-gazing backed by amateurish music. By the third song on Courage My Love, my fears were allayed. Annie Gallup is “spoken word” in the same fashion as some of my favourite artists like Lou Reed, Elliott Murphy, and Bruce Cockburn. Plus, Annie’s got a great voice that can range from soothing and reassuring to sly and conspiratorial. On Courage My Love, the music is not an afterthought; the outstanding bass playing of Michael Visceglia deserves special mention. The music never falls into a predictable rut as songs range from the meditative (“Flood”) to the medieval (“Hard Work”), with some country whimsy thrown in (“100 Miles From Music City”). Just when you think the music will lull you away, your ears will prick up from one of her wry observations. Dogs and tattoos seem to be subjects of particular fascination for her. The album’s masterpiece is “Blue Dress,” a three-minute song that encompasses life, death, family, and identity. Mere words can’t convey its exquisite beauty. (Prime CD)