Aly Spaltro is from all over — Arizona, Nevada, New York — but she calls Maine home. At least, that’s where she went from being Aly the poet, the teenager and nascent creative person to Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, the ascendant indie-rock star. Spaltro just moved to New York City, where she will seek her fortune as a singer-songwriter, but her heart remains in the 207.
“I’ve lived all over the country, but Maine was the place where I first felt completely at home,” said Spaltro, who lived in the Portland area from age 14 until last year. “It’s where I became who I am. It definitely figures in my life in a huge way. I’ll be back.”
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, aka the pint-sized, huge-voiced, fearsomely talented Spaltro, will play at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the West Market Festival in downtown Bangor, which is set for noon to 8 p.m. and will feature six other groups in addition to Lady Lamb. It’s free, too.
It’s a rare treat for Bangor audiences to see the woman that the Portland Phoenix named Best New Maine Band and the Boston Music Awards named Best Folk Artist, both in 2010. She’s a force to be reckoned with, with her densely knotted lyrics, impressive guitar and banjo skills and alternately hushed and soaring vocal stylings. Live, it’s just her and a drummer, as if to underscore her big voice and her words.
Spaltro, 21, came to music in 2007 after avoiding performing and focusing instead on her poetry. Her father is an avid musician who would play her Beatles songs as she fell asleep as a little girl and instilled in her a love of classic rock, blues and standards. Though she grew up in a musical house, she didn’t initially care to play.
“I didn’t want to play music at all. I was really into writing poetry and performing at poetry slams in Brunswick and Portland and Bath. That was my focus,” she said. “I was writing poetry for it to be performed and spoken. The music came later.”
Inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel’s album “In the Aeroplane over the Sea,” she first picked up a guitar at age 18 and rapidly developed her unique instrumental style.
“Jeff Mangum changed the course of my life,” said Spaltro, speaking of Neutral Milk Hotel’s primary member. “Those were life-changing songs for me. I didn’t think anything like that existed. He’s still my main rock ‘n’ roll squeeze.”
Taking her cue from Mangum, her songs are just as often short and sweet as they are multi-part suites, with jangly guitar interspersed with banjo and her voice — that awesome, evocative instrument — giving heft and conviction to her lyrics. There’s a bit of the ragged beauty of Janis Joplin in her voice along with the swoops and dives of Jeff Buckley, but in the end it’s all her own vision, fueled by a burning creative vitality that’s apparent in every song she writes.
She chose the moniker Lady Lamb the Beekeeper almost at random, scribbling down a phrase that sounded interesting and going with it. She has released four albums, beginning with 2007’s “The Tingly Circus” and two albums in 2008, “Someday We Will Levitate” and “Samples for Handsome Animals.” Last year saw the release of “Mammoth Swoon,” a collection of songs she’d recorded over the course of two years. Meanwhile, her reputation grew in the Portland music scene as a fierce performer and prolific songwriter.
Now that she’s in New York, she’s facing stiffer competition as an artist — but it’s clear that someone with the talent that Spaltro possesses only has to get out and show people what she does before others will fall in love with her music. You’d be missing out in a big way if you miss her this Saturday, although she also is scheduled to perform on the main stage at the KahBang Festival this August. But after that? Well, at least you can say you knew Lady Lamb the Beekeeper before she got big.
Also appearing at the West Market Festival this weekend will be an assortment of fantastic Maine bands. They include Skyler and the Band of Thieves, a pop group out of York; Odlaw, an alternative rock group out of Belfast; Bangor’s own Mudseason, the groovy jam-funk collective who recently were signed to a California record label; When Particles Collide, a rock duo also of Bangor; Dean Ford of Portland, a power-pop songwriter and the Mallett Brothers Band, an alt-country band out of Portland whose most recent album topped the Bull Moose Music charts last year.
Emily Burnham may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rockblogsterbdn.