Sweet as Honey, Stings like a Bee
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, otherwise known as the musician and Maine-native Aly Spaltro, masters the art of storytelling on Ripely Pine, her most recent album. Each track forms a mini-narrative, constructed with arcs and climaxes, rising and falling in gentle lulls and hypnotic dénouements.
The album’s structural complexity and dynamically changing rhythms are deceptively simple—Lady Lamb makes songwriting look effortless. On opener “Hair to the Ferris Wheel,” a languid, folksy guitar melody begins a slow romantic ballad, Spaltro’s warm, rich alto veering in and out of a low, bluesy register. “Take me by the arm to the altar / take me by the collar to the cliff,” she sings, turning the love song clichés inside out into a meditation on the selfishness of love. It grows and swells as electric guitar and drums come crashing in, distorted riffs soloing off in a burst of energy with just the right amount of infectious reckless abandon. It’s a big, beautiful introduction to an album that surprises at every twist and turn, from the tinkling keys and staccato horns of “Aubergine” to the angsty energy of the theatrical “Bird Balloons,” with its hazy guitar, spastic drums and minimalistic, melodic intervals.
Ripely Pine achieves a balance between vocals and instrumental tracks, where Spaltro’s warm, earthy alto perfectly complements the various arrangements of guitars, pianos, horns and percussion comprising her infectious blend of folk and rock sounds. While “Regarding Ascending the Stairs” is a more traditional folk song, with its lively bluegrass banjo, “Mezzanine” features a heavy, discordant bass thumping above militant drums. It almost sounds like a rock opera, like something from a musical that manages to navigate vocal and musical displays of emotion without being cheesy. Similarly, the closing track “Taxidermist, Taxidermist” has slow, big beats and crashing cymbals accompanying Spaltro’s quavering vocals (bet you didn’t think a song about taxidermy could contain so much emotion).
Quite simply, Ripely Pine is a delightful record, combining imaginative, quirky lyricism and a down-home, honest approach to songwriting that makes Lady Lamb an artist to watch.