Ten years of perspective has changed how Aly Spaltro performs songs from her debut album, “Ripely Pine.”
“I find myself singing songs that were kind of devastating with a smile on my face,” she said last week.
Spaltro, who performs under the name Lady Lamb, will play the album in its entirety, along with several other songs, when she headlines the State Theatre Saturday night, joined on stage by 11 musicians, including a string section and saxophone players. Her last time playing the State was in 2019, while on the road for the “Even in the Tremor” album.
“Ripely Pine” came out when Spaltro, born in Brunswick, was 23, though she wrote a lot of it between the ages of 18 and 21. “The overwhelming emotions that I’m kind of portraying throughout the album are feelings of longing, but also some anger and confusion,” she said about its dozen tracks. These days, Spaltro still experiences a feeling of catharsis but also of joy when singing the “Ripely Pine” songs. “I think that an album can grow with you and change with you, for the listener and the writer.”
While you could technically call Spaltro a singer-songwriter, her music is far more kaleidoscopic and expansive, often with electric guitar, unusual phrasings and arrangements, and emotionally dense, descriptive lyrics sung by a voice that can go from gentle to full caterwaul at a moment’s notice.
“In The Mammoth Nothing Of The Night” is a five-LP box set that Spaltro released in August that has the entire “Ripely Pine” album along with 23 additional tracks, including nine songs from the “Ripely Pine” era that she frequently played live but never recorded. There are also seven songs from that same period that she never played publicly, and six new arrangements of “Ripely” album tracks with string quartet versions, along with acoustic, piano and live studio ones. “Mammoth” is an exquisite showcase of music.
Spaltro spent several years in New York City before buying a home on the Midcoast at the beginning of the pandemic. There, she hosted several well-attended front-yard shows. After a year or so living back in Maine, Spaltro decided to lease her home and is currently living back in New York, specifically Brooklyn. She missed her network of friends there and especially her long walks around the city where she would overhear snippets of conversations that would inspire song lyrics.
A lengthy string of solo dates just wrapped up and two more legs of the tour will take her all over the country and run into December.
While playing shows this summer in smaller spaces like community centers and cafes, Spaltro experienced what she described as an epiphany that will soon become her primary focus: making a documentary.
She’ll score it and is already in early talks with a pair of New York City-based filmmakers.
It all started in Indianapolis. The host of an August gig at a coffee shop was a woman named Jill Potter. That night, long after the show ended, Spaltro learned that Potter was the captain of the 2016 USA Olympic women’s rugby team and also a cancer survivor. “It shook me to my core. I just had this moment of you never know what somebody’s going through,” said Spaltro. From that point on, the usually introverted Spaltro started learning about her hosts as the tour moved along and started interviewing them.
Once Spaltro let her guard down, she realized she had been subconsciously looking for a way to be excited, energized and inspired about being on tour. She found exactly that, especially within the queer community of which she’s long been a proud member. Spaltro was especially moved by conversations with show hosts she met in states like Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. “I was going to the South where people’s rights are being taken away, where people are really scared, and there’s a lot more to building community.”
All told, Spaltro interviewed about eight people and her plan is to travel back to these locations to have longer conversations, film crew in tow. “I want to make a documentary about people building community where they live and how it connects out.”
Spaltro said she wants to tell the stories about those who are defending libraries, labor organizing, creating safe spaces for queer people and fighting for racial equity. She hopes to not just have sit-down chats. “It’s gonna also be about getting to know some of these people through being invited into their space and talk about what they’re doing, what they’re inspired by.”
Spaltro’s reason for wanting to do this film are clear. “I want to tell stories of joy and resilience in a time where we know all the scary bad things that are happening right now that are making us feel such anxiety. I would love to focus on stories of seeing people’s joy because it’s still here.”
Spaltro’s plan is to look into securing funding from grants and other avenues. Follow her on Instagram and visit ladylambjams.com to keep up with the film project, along with live dates and music news.
Lady Lamb with Dead Gowns8 p.m. Saturday. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $25 in advance, $30 day of show. statetheatreportland.com