Heidi Spencer & the Rare Birdswere mainstays on the Milwaukee club scene for a few years, cutting two previous self-released albums before being signed to former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde's U.K. independent Bella Union imprint and releasing Under Streetlight Glow. Born in 1974, Spencer is the daughter of Milwaukee underground magazine co-founder and musician Jim Spencer (he is best known for the solo offering Second Look, regarded in some circles as an early-'70s countercultural masterpiece). After the premature death of her father, she found his guitar in the basement and taught herself to play. She spent much of her youth after school living an itinerant lifestyle in over a dozen states before returning to Milwaukee to make films (some of which have been featured in festivals) and write songs.
Spencer began playing at 15, and writing songs at 18, inspired in equal parts by Dolly Parton, Edie Brickell, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, and Tom Petty -- though her sparse, ethereal sound doesn't reflect any of them save perhaps for Parton's earliest, more folk-inpired recordings. She formed the Rare Birds, featuring drummer/producer Bill Curtis, guitarist Matt Hendricks, Jess Hrobar on piano, double bassist Dave Gelting, and harmony vocalist Renee Pratt. The band's first offering, Matches and Valentines, was self-released in 2003, and followed by Luck We Made in 2005. While Spencer's sound contains many trace elements of traditional British and folk music and recognizable Americana traits, her incantatory music, evidenced best on 2011's Under Streetlight Glow, is unique, with its sparse atmospherics, hallucinatory lyrics, and melodies balanced against an economy of tension that reflects a bounty of yearning. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi