Until Neon Dream dropped through the letterbox, Audrey Spillman was somewhat of a mystery to us here at Blabber’n’Smoke. We’d heard (and seen ) her as part of the Buffalo Blood collective (featuring her husband, Neilson Hubbard along with Joshua Britt and Dean Owens) which, in itself was something of an offshoot of Hubbard and Britt’s Orphan Brigade. Due diligence reveals that Spillman has a couple of albums and EPs already under her belt and had also acted in an independent film, Wheeler, alongside Stephen Dorff and Kris Kristofferson. Having heard Neon Dream, it’s fair to say that we’ll be checking out those past releases as we have truly succumbed to Spillman’s bewitching songs on Neon Dream.
The album opens with Austin Motel which contains the lyric providing the album’s title, a title which is quite apt as much of this album is a dreamlike reverie with Spillman’s voice somewhat spellbinding. Her hubby Hubbard, Will Kimbrough and Dan Mitchell are the musicians who provide the ingredients and they are perfect dream weavers, the delicate arrangements perfectly suited to the voice. Austin Motel is a perfect example as the song undulates between swooning guitar and percussive pops and fully fledged Neon lit Americana. Beyond The Blue is delivered in similar fashion with its fusion of pop and roots reminiscent of Neko Case on albums such as Blacklisted.
Elsewhere, Spillman digs a little deeper into her own voyage with Red Balloon an intimate recollection of a child’s relationship to her father while Little Light Of Mine is a delicate song to her infant son, sweetened immensely by the superbly restrained and cosseting guitars. On a darker note, Go On And Fly is an eulogy to her late stepmother but it has a universal touch.
A cover of Summertime, the Porgy & Bess chestnut, might seem surprising but Spillman and crew actually manage to breathe new life into it, their resurrection is wonderfully languid and limpid. Stretching across to the Buffalo Blood project, there’s also Spillman’s take on White River which adheres, for the most part, to the original but with glistening guitar murmurings adding to its quiet majesty.