Like smoke rising towards the heavens from a smoldering campfire, the immaculate glow of the gentle string arrangement that starts of Amilia K Spicer’s new single “Harlan” captures ones attention even from a great distance and draws us nearer to see just where all that heat is coming from. A dancing kick drum struts into the picture and we start our adventure towards the smoke, as unforgiving as the path ahead may look. “Oh Harlan, I’m on my way” Spicer starts to sing, and when her vocals meet the girth of the instruments behind them they marry in the gilded simplicity of their joint harmony. Spicer has a way of making the road ahead look a little less daunting just by showing us that she’s there.
A cutting minor key bend twists us into the forest and we’re helplessly at the mercy of Spicer’s assertive voice; our only beacon in the darkness created by the mass of trees. Like the forest, Spicer is mysterious, full of life and eager for us to explore every detail of her being, but she’s letting us carve out our own means of doing so through her song. There’s a rolling thunder that quakes the ground beneath us as the bass stirs restlessly and Spicer duels with its atonality, coming out the victor on every such occasion. By the time we’re half way through “Harlan” it feels like we’ve been listening to a full studio album instead of a single, with each verse appearing to be more sprawling than its predecessor.
About four minutes into “Harlan,” Spicer, much like her swaggering bassline, is becoming too restless to be contained by the four studio walls. She’s breaking free. She’s burning down the forest that traps her spirit and letting her own colorful smoke fill the sky for everyone to see. Fireworks explode as she falls into the chorus head first and lets the sonic glow wash over her, leaving but only a trace of evidence supporting her existence in this world. When the song concludes, we’re left wondering whether or not we listened to a woman singing at all, or if in fact we have just been graced by the vocals of a divine being, here to keep us safe in a treacherous world.
Amilia K Spicer’s music video for “Harlan” takes a different approach to expressing the themes that I embraced in my study of the song, but nevertheless our interpretations remain tethered to the same narrative; Spicer is a shaman, a shepherd for a country music flock that has been lost in desertion for far too long and has finally found someone who they can trust to lead them into the future with an excellent accompanying song. She might be a fresh face in her scene, but she’s got all of the poise and confidence of a seasoned veteran and displays just how ready she is for the big leagues in this new single, which frankly I think every country music fan needs to hear at the soonest possible occasion.