Hearing Aide: Spafford ‘For Amusement Only’

Spafford’s first studio release in 6 years is finally here and it was well worth the wait. The Phoenix, Arizona-based up and comers have spent the last couple of years making a name for themselves through relentless touring and mass amounts of lengthy jams, and they’ve gained quite a following (affectionately called “Spaffnerds”). The group is comprised of Brian Moss (Guitar/Vocals), Jordan Fairless (Bass/Vocals), Andrew ‘Red’ Johnson (Keys/Vocals), and newcomer Cameron Laforest (Drums/Vocals), who is coming up on one year with the band. For Amusement Only mostly consists of songs that have been debuted and expanded upon live already, with the exception of “Fuel.”

“Ain’t That Wrong” is one of strongest tracks on the album, with a very anthemic and driving sound. The groove is tight and fast paced, the lyrics are catchy, and there’s a jam section towards the end that shows a glimpse of just how impressive their live jams are. It’s quick, concise, and features a thrilling peak driven by a saxophonist named Jason that Moss met on the street while taking a smoke break. The band recently made their MSG debut with this track, which was a smart choice, as this song is bound to gain them lots more fans.

Another great selection from For Amusement Only is the funky “Mind’s Unchained,” which is based off a poem by Spafford’s former Lighting Director and contributing lyricist, Chuck Johnson. This song was slowed down a bit for its studio recording, but still captures the laid-back nature of the song that fans are familiar with. “Mind’s Unchained” also features a jam section, a bit longer than “Ain’t That Wrong”’s, and a little more focused on the group’s ability to improvise as a whole rather than bringing a song to a peak, though it does end with a remarkable solo from Moss.

One of the most exciting songs that got a studio version was “The Postman,” one of the more grandiose songs Spafford has in their catalog. The song starts off with a beautiful, complex composed section and moves into the funky verse section that fans all know and love. “The Postman” really showcases each member’s individual talents and how they come together in large-scale compositions. Cameron Laforest keeps everything tight and locked down, allowing for Fairless to stray a bit from the traditional role of a bass player in the rhythm section and keep the whole band moving through chord changes. “The Postman” also rounds out the wide range of styles that Spafford covers on this album, from soulful ballads to funk jams to extensive compositions. For Amusement Only is a really solid studio release that shows off some of the band’s best compositions and is bound to gain them lots of fans.

Key Tracks: Ain’t That Wrong, Mind’s Unchained, All In, The Postman, Slip and Squander