Yorkshire-based Katie Spencer makes no secret of the fact that she’s a fan of the late John Martyn. That influence is noted in the credits of her debut mini-album Good Morning Sky which opens with It’s True, on which she plays one of John’s acoustic guitars. The guest musicians also include keyboardist Foss Paterson who played with John on a number of albums in the ’90s.
In terms of Martyn’s influence, it’s there on the slower numbers in the laid-back jazz-infused melodies on which Foss Paterson keys provide some beautiful jazz lines which call to mind Danny Thompson. That said, there is enough variety elsewhere on this album to suggest Katie’s musical horizons are both broad and inventive.
Katie co-produced the album with Brian Young, who also plays an assortment of instruments from electric guitar to Estonian harp, and they allow Katie’s first instrument of choice to shine through in the mix. After first listening to Katie play I assumed she’d been playing the guitar for a long time so I was surprised to find that she only picked up the guitar in 2012, an instrument that lends itself well to her alluring jazzy vocals. Her guitar melodies are not flashy, but sympathetic. You notice them more on repeated listens, especially on headphones, when you begin to appreciate how inventive she can be with her patterns and rhythms.
Although only five tracks, Spencer packs in some variety as she picks up the pace with the second track Magazines, a rhythm and blues number with a hint of that Tulsa sound with Young lending some electric guitar for JJ Cale-inspired moments. It contrasts well to the album opener, both musically and lyrically, demonstrating a love for wordplay as she turns up some lingering phrases “magazines read today that floral prints are in, the only place that’s true is inside your head…”
Aided by Fraser Speirs‘ harmonica, echoing vibes, overdubbed vocals and Young’s Estonian harp, an open prairie soundscape is conjured out of the blue for Children (Don’t You Know). We premiered the video for the track on which Katie shared that it was one of the first songs she created, and it had been following her around ever since – “pulling on my coat tails….It explores the idea that the child is ever-present in the adult, proving that age really is just a human construct when building relationships with people.”
Moths to the Light finds us back in late night Thompson – Martyn territory for what may well be her most poetic exploration on the album although I admit that I found myself struggling to discern some of her lyrics on this mix.
Can’t Resist the Road brings ‘Good Morning Sky’ to its conclusion. A short song about not being able to resist the call of the road and the new discoveries that it may bring. I’m looking forward to hearing what she finds out there, as debuts go Katie Spencer is clearly off to a flying start, and there’s a broad enough palette on offer here to suggest she’s a name worth watching for in the future.
Order it via Bandcamp: https://katiespencerofficial.bandcamp.com/album/good-morning-sky