Cold Specks is the stage persona for Al Spx, a 23-year-old Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist, currently touring to promote her stunning debut album I Predict a Graceful Expulsion. Traveling with a band of musicians that expands and contracts in numbers depending on her budget and the size of the venue, Spx opened Saturday’s show at Jammin’ Java by walking center stage in an oversized black shift and huge cardigan with rolled-up sleeves, where she unleashed a voice that sounds like it can’t possibly come from her very tiny, very young frame. Spx let the audience know immediately what we were in for - jaw dropping vocals morphing into a fuller sound as she was joined on stage first by a guitarist and a baritone sax, then by a drummer and keyboardist, and finally by a bass guitarist.
For songs like “The Mark,” the album’s opening track, the sax rumbled like a foghorn and acted as a perfect complement for Spx’s own throaty baritone. “Heavy Hands,” with its bleating chorus and the deep sax surging in the background, felt like waves pounding over the audience - the song has the best the qualities of a haunting funeral dirge, but Cold Specks somehow managed to pull it off without bringing the evening down with a thud. At the opening piano bars for “Winter Solstice,” Spx put down her guitar and just stood in front of the mike, staring at the ceiling as she belted out the most powerful song on the album. It was in moments like these that the evening took on an almost dreamlike state, with the trance broken by Spx’ dazzling smile at the end of each song.