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08/29/13

Spencer Day
The Mystery of You
Concord Records

With the 2009 release of his third disc, Vagabond, baritone Spencer Day finally found his groove, seeming an all-American answer to Brit wunderkind Jamie Cullum. Now, four years on, the fresh-faced Utahn has entered his mid-30s and adopted a more grown-up style that places him squarely in the Michael Bublé pop-jazz camp (though blessedly free of the bloated overproduction that too often mars Bublé’s efforts).

Day’s intriguingly unpredictable, richly atmospheric The Mystery of You, featuring a dozen original compositions, also reveals his full blossoming as a tunesmith. Riding into the delectably noirish title track on a James-Bond-meets-Otto-Preminger riff, Day carves a circuitous route. Love is lost (“I Don’t Want to Know,” an unvarnished heartbreaker performed in duet with Gaby Moreno, and the bleak, Roy Orbison-inspired “The Answer”) and love is found (the scorching tumult that is “Soul on Fire,” and “Something Wicked,” a murky ode to temptation, fueled by Indian strings).

But Day’s smorgasbord extends well beyond amour’s plusses and minuses. The shifty, Latin-tinged “Shadow Man” cleverly addresses our inescapable dark sides while, antithetically, the prayer-like “Somewhere on the Other Side” explores the eventual defeat of inner demons. Finally, there’s the closing “I’m Going Home,” a gently propulsive paean to achieving self-fulfillment—which, musically speaking, Day surely has.

Originally published in July/August 2013
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