Her stage name might be a mouthful, but Lady Lamb the Beekeeper is a performer of startling directness. She wields her instrument of choice, a sleek black electric guitar, with swagger, even though it dwarfs her diminutive frame. If you’ve ever seen her live, you know that the absence of a backup band is of no consequence—this lady can work a room all by herself.
It’s a skill that Aly Spaltro, 23, has been honing since she was 18. Her odd, sprawling songs frequently run past the five minute mark and in all that time she holds nothing back. One minute she’ll be warbling over quiet finger-picked chords. and the next she’s belting blues-bent notes towards the heavens. Rather than repeat a chorus, Spaltro instead changes time or tempo, a tendency she pragmatically attributes to a desire to express a lot without seeming dull.
The question foremost in her mind, she says, is: “How can I make it so that the words are the most important thing, but that the music can help lift them up, so that people aren’t looking at their watches?”
In the past five years, Spaltro has released four self-produced albums, all meandering lo-fi recordings made either in her bedroom or in the DVD rental shop in Maine where she used to work. While her onstage persona connects with gut-level force, her recordings display a more intimate, if similarly rough-hewn, side. On 2010’s Mammoth Swoon, she introduces the song “Regarding Ascending the Stairs” while waiting in her basement for her clothes to dry. She sings and hammers away at a banjo for several minutes while the soft thunk of the dryer plays in the background, then announces, “My hands are fuckin’ frozen,” and shuts of the recorder.
This is typical for Spaltro, who has no qualms about letting a first take stand on its own.
“I like to just sometimes spontaneously… make something that I don’t slave over, but that is honest, and is a product of that moment.”
Yet she has spent most of the last year doing just the opposite. Since moving from Maine to Brooklyn, she has been working on her first studio album. The basic tracks were recorded over the winter in producer Nadim Issa’s Brooklyn studio with members of Maine-based trio The Milkman’s Union, and Spaltro has spent the last six months painstakingly arranging and overdubbing vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, horns, and strings. It was an arduous process, but, “it’s made it possible for this record to sound as thoughtful and cared for as it possibly can.”
For her headlining show at Brighton Music Hall on August 11, Spaltro will break with tradition and have The Milkman’s Union back her up on a few songs. The recording experience may have pushed her toward a more collaborative, detail-oriented artistry, but she views the journey with characteristic poetry.
“I just felt like the songs knew what they wanted to be, and they just sort of gave me the responsibility of helping them get there.”
LADY LAMB THE BEEKEPER
WITH MOE POPE, XENIA RUBINOS
BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL
158 BRIGHTON AVE.,