Canadian singer-songwriter Spencer Burton has stepped out from behind the security of his country-folk moniker Grey Kingdom and released his third solo album under his own name. From hardcore beginnings, as guitarist for band Attack in Black, Burton has evolved into an artist who prefers the soft, sombre sounds of acoustic folk to share exquisitely intimate and honest moments and experiences.
Recorded and produced with long-time friend and band mate Daniel Romano, Don’t Let The World See Your Love is an album that offers a distinct warmth and solace. Opening track Death of Gold establishes the aesthetic features of the rest of the album; bright acoustics and relaxed instrumentation, punctuated with stunning vocal harmonies and flickers of piano, accordion and fiddle, create the sonic landscape upon which intricate guitar work plays cat and mouse and Burton’s mesmerising, honeyed voice.
He exposes a fragility unexpected from someone who was in a hardcore band in songs such as the balladic Diamond, whose simple but evocative lyrics (If you were a diamond would I find you in the dirt, just laying with the other coal, but still fragile in your worth) are expressed by the most beautifully, and skilfully, sung melismatic phrases. Blessed Sun and Grey Kingdom combine lovely vocal harmonies with subtle piano, and weeping solos played on fiddle and accordion respectively to create a sobering atmosphere, while A Body Is All She Ever Let Me Hold is more driven, playing on percussive devices to propel the LP forward.
The haunting title track of the record is both so painful, but simultaneously comforting. Burton shifts to his lower register, completely altering his vocal timbre in order to express more earnestly his grief. The A cappella chorus is one of the most lingering moments of the album: the phasing of his voice is unsettling and distressingly mournful, while multi-tracking creates a united chorus of voices, uttering the comforting truth that the there is something universal and shared about this pain.
Garden Path and Blackbird’s Song are both incredibly visual, as Burton paints deceptively pretty pictures with his mellifluous voice and plucked guitar melodies. While the Patty Griffin-inspired Gone With You is perhaps my favourite track on the album. The song has a solemn reverence about its sparse arrangement, peppered with enchanting piano, and gospel-like melodies that is heartrending.
If Spencer Burton doesn’t let the world see his love, he certainly lets the world hear it. Don’t Let The World See Your Love is an affecting body of work that is intensely emotional without being stereotypically climactic. The goal of this album is certainly not one of innovation, but that point is made entirely redundant by Burton’s good, old fashioned song writing, which is anchored his expressive, sensitive and stunning voice.