Amy Speace looks at the world with bracing clarity. She peers into the shadows and darkness of everyday life — death and loss, grief and longing — and embraces them, for she knows that we must pass through the shadows to emerge into the light.
Reflecting on the period between her son’s first birthday and her father’s death, the stories that Speace tells in the songs on There Used to Be Horses Here capture a sweep of emotions, and she carries us inside her world of grief, joy, and hope.
The album opens with “Down the Trail,” which opens with guitars and mandolins circling around each other in a somber, but achingly gorgeous, river of sound. Speace’s vocals float on this river, and the song builds wave by wave, cascading into a glorious emotional crescendo that washes over us before receding once again. It’s a song about accepting death and finding peace once we’ve accepted it.
The title track falls somewhere between the ethereal spiraling notes of Joni Mitchell’s “Clouds” and the affecting emotional soundscape of Laura Nyro, while the gospel shouter “Hallelujah Trail,” kicking off with bright mandolin runs, transports us gloriously in a moment of riding the train that carries us across to the other side.
The gentle lullaby “One Year” shimmers with the love for life, the beauty of watching a newborn grow, feeling the encompassing intimacy of mother and child, and acknowledging that change is the one constant in our lives. The exuberant “Shotgun Hearts” looks back to a time glistening with desire: “We were young and high / In a 3am world / Running against our dreams before they could start.”
On There Used to Be Horses Here, Speace collaborates with The Orphan Brigade (Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover, and Joshua Britt), and the musical genius on this album is breathtaking. Speace’s songs are glorious testimonies to joy, to courage, to self-affirmation, to love.