Breaking into Burlington's somewhat crowded singer-songwriter scene can be a challenge. Newcomer Spencer Goddard has slowly worked his way in, gigging at comforting, folk-friendly venues such as the Skinny Pancake, the Light Club Lamp Shop and Pizza Barrio. This month Goddard debuts a six-track EP, Movement. It is a simple, cohesive affair that plays by the folk rulebook.
Strong, earnest and searching, Goddard's voice is well suited to his genre. Musically, he does not deviate from standard singer-songwriter elements. The opener, "Box of Stones," begins with his gentle guitar picking and the occasional squeak of a string. This sparse arrangement style holds throughout the album.
Goddard does, however, feature two guests who quietly add their own special touches. Shay Gestal, of Americana duo Old Sky, chimes in on violin and vocals, while Cassidy Martin plays piano. Gestal's violin playing is tender and sweet, and her dulcet harmonies complement Goddard's rougher tone. Martin's piano playing is soft and unobtrusive, providing a layer of instrumental polish.
"Open Doorways" is a lively tune with an inspirational message. Goddard sings, "Take these wooden wings and fly as high as you can / the view from above is greater than down on land / take these photographs and carve a future from the past / for these lines will draw themselves if we live too fast."
On "Ghost Ships," an eerie, unsettling violin portends things to come, while flickering guitar mimics racing thoughts. Goddard's sinking-ship metaphor inches toward cliché, but backs away at the chorus. His voice becomes strained as he sings of a relationship going south: "It feels like I'm in a roomful of strangers and I'm / searching as far as these eyes can see / for someone to save us / You said that this is the end / then where does it begin?"
"Runaway" resumes an easygoing pace. Regretful and on the road, leaving his mistakes behind, Goddard questions his own actions and motivations. "Do I run from them or from myself? / Sometimes the difference is hard to tell," he admits.
The closer "Seen It All" ends the album on an inquisitive, wry note. "You claim you've seen it all / you know where secrets lie / what makes you so sure / that it's from your own eyes?" Goddard asks, flipping the script on someone who professes to know the world.
Movement certainly has beautiful moments. The songs flow easily, while the lyrics raise worthwhile questions and make astute observations, as folk tunes tend to do. At times, however, the EP feels repetitive. It would be interesting to hear Goddard expand his guitar chops beyond simple strumming, or flex his vocals. That said, Movement is a fine start for an up-and-coming folk crooner.