Music

Compact reflections on love – Live Music: Margaret Glaspy

American singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy is a talented guitarist – melodic, dynamic, fierce, loose. Her distinctive vocal style is highly expressive. And her finely crafted folk-pop compositions – easy melodies laden with hooks – are compact reflections on love – observation and self-examination.

Photo: Ebru Yildiz/ATO Records
Photo: Ebru Yildiz/ATO Records

Growing up in Red Bluff, California, Glaspy learned the trombone and played competitive fiddle before deciding to focus on the guitar. A grant enabled the then 18 year-old to enrol at Berklee College of Music in Boston where she spent several years, on and off campus, honing her skills as a writer and performer. These days she calls New York City home.

From the moment Glaspy takes the stage, with bassist Chris Morrissey and drummer Tim Kuhl, the audience is entranced. One fan in the front row cannot contain his excitement – jumping up and down, meeting each familiar riff with a gleeful fist pump. 

The whole experience is infectious.

Band members communicate so well – the arrangements are structured, with room for improvisation. Glaspy is clearly thrilled to be touring on the back of her long-awaited long-player, Emotions and Math (ATO Records). It’s also her first visit to Australia. 

Her voice is alternately raw, sensual, bluesy, hushed. At times she employs a guttural technique that is truly arresting.

Opener “Pins and Needles” is confident, celebratory. Song by song it gets better and better. “You and I” sees Glaspy stomping on the embers of a failed fling. In “Memory Street” she’s pining for memories happily surrendered. Nostalgia is juxtaposed with angst, painful memories with compassion.

Among many standouts, “No Matter Who”, “Emotions and Math”, and a solo “Somebody to Anybody” impress. There are stunning covers of songs by Neil Young, Lauryn Hill, Bjork and Lucinda Williams.

The show, with Slow Dancer (Oh Mercy guitarist Simon Okely) in support, was one of the final shows at Newtown Social Club, which closes its doors on April 23. According to a Facebook post, the King Street venue formerly known as the Sandringham Hotel has struggled to make ends meet, blaming “the current regulatory climate in Sydney”. A reference to “exploring new opportunities in the future” offers a glimmer of hope. See www.newtownsocialclub.com.

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