Amy Speace released one of the standout albums of 2021, ‘There Used to be Horses Here’, in which she focused on the impact of losing her father. It was a deeply intimate and powerfully emotive collection but, in many ways, it was just paving the way for the forthcoming album ‘Tucson’, which is due for release on 8th April 2022. This promises to be her most personal album to date. Speace says: “All of my records have an honest vulnerability, and touches of autobiography. But I’ve never done an album like this.” The new songs are a response to trauma that has affected Speace emotionally, mentally and physically throughout her adult life as she addresses directly being date-raped at the age of 19 while at college. She’s also a recovering alcoholic, now eight years sober, who can trace pain and loss back to that time in her young life. Lyrically, the new material is incredibly open-hearted, the private made public in Speace’s hugely affecting narrative style. She continues: “To stand in my truth and talk about it, finally — it’s not like, ‘Yeah, this happened, I’m fine.’ I still don’t know what to make of this and it still affects me. But I’m working through it, and I’m able to look at it. So, I realised there’s power in speaking the truth. And if I can talk about it—and it’s scary—maybe it will give someone else hope, too.”
‘Cottonwood’ is the first single from the record and it’s like a doorway into the album’s themes. It’s named after the treatment centre, Cottonwood de Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona, where Speace stayed in 2020 to address her anxiety, depression and past trauma. It was here, then, that she really began to deal with the abuse she suffered, where it all came together, so it serves well as an introduction to the narrative and feelings that unfold across the record. She explains: “It’s a love song, in a sense, to the place that healed me.” Pay attention to the lyrical drive of ‘Cottonwood’: the language is direct and there is real pain in these words. Early in her treatment at Cottonwood, Speace found an old, out-of-tune piano and this song tumbled out. Musically, the pulsing, repetitive piano notes build a tension that gradually builds in layers and it serves to frame her voice and her words. Speace’s vocal performance is typically beautiful; her voice possesses a rare richness and texture and she delivers an exquisite melody.
These new songs and personal stories spilled out of Speace alongside her residential treatment; perhaps others who have experienced trauma will find themselves reflected and supported by them. Extraordinary.