Etobicoke, Canada is a long way from the Deep South but it is clear that is where native Al Spx, now a resident of the even more distant London, finds her inspiration. Her homespun blues are built on the old slave songs of the region, but lifted out of the cotton fields and on to grander plains by her quite wonderful voice.
But her powers do not stop at elevating simple songs to a different level with her voice alone. I Predict A Graceful Expulsion starts slowly and takes its time to full reveal itself. Openers ‘The Mark’ and ‘Heavy Hands’ are just getting you warmed up before things fully take shape with more ambitious arrangements and finely-crafted sounds.
Sat between the doom soul of ‘When The City Lights Dim’ and the slow, blues ballad of lead single ‘Holland’, the crowning glory is ‘Hector’, a mesmerising song of beautiful, undulating rhythms that will stay with you long after it’s short two-and-a-half minute span is complete.
It is moments like this that really lift this record up a level. While Spx’s traditional rhythm and blues hit the spot all by themselves, the moments where she dares to go that little bit further that elevate things.
If I was going to have one qualm with the record, it is the timing of its release. ‘Winter Solstace’ is a fine song, but hardly something you’re going to be reaching for in late May. This is not a summer record, but rather something to pull out when the cold specks are on the windowpane as well as the record player. But as long as I remember to dig it out again in December, all will be well.