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  • Writer's pictureCHRIS FARLIE

Emily Mae Winters - The Stables Milton Keynes

The last time #TeamW21 caught up with Emily Mae Winters, she was third on the bill supporting the Worry Dolls at the Slaughtered Lamb, her set showed great humour and enormous potential. Eighteen months later, as we take our seat at the Stables, has seen her release a stunning EP “Foreign Waters” and very shortly her first album “Siren Serenade“, while also heading out on her first solo tour.

Tonights’ performance is split into two quite remarkable parts that confirm that Emily Mae, is no longer a potential talent, she has well and truly arrived. The opening couple of songs are slightly more from the folkier end of her repertoire, gently picked and beautifully sung, “Miles To Go”, and “Anchor” set the scene perfectly. The tour was supposed to tie in with Emily Mae passing her driving test however things did not go to plan and so in true rock and roll style she is being driven on this tour by her parents!

The third song of set one saw Emily Mae move from picking to using a plectrum as she switched to a more country influenced tune, a cover of a song by Emmylou Harris, one of her big influences, in the shape of “Red Dirt Girl” and in a second, she is as country as they come. A slight inflexion in her voice, somehow gives her more authentic country resonance. As the night goes on she will continue to effortlessly flit between the styles until you realise it does not matter either style is simply perfect.

“Fiddlers Green” an Irish style shanty showed that Emily Mae, has really learnt her stage craft and quite soon had the audience in the palm of her hands singing along. As if to confound our expectations more the next song, a more traditional folk song “She Moves The Fair” is played accapella, and the breathtaking beauty of the performance leaves the room astounded and silent. After playing the title track of the “Foreign Waters” EP she then challenges our expectations again by moving to the piano, for another song of brilliance “The Star” inspired by a poem by Keats.

Set one closed with another 2 songs that maintained the quite stellar standard evening so far, “Until The Light” showed an exceptional vocal range, while “Gin Tingles Whiskey Shivers” was simply magnificent. Such was the standard of the first set that it did leave me wondering if she would possibly be able to match it in the second half.

Needless to say, set two was just as astonishing, starting with “Blackberry Lane”, written shortly after her move from London to Cambridge, a song that was the perfect blend of the folk and country styles as mentioned earlier. The second accapella song of the night “Down By The Salley Gardens” from a WB Yeats poem once again drew huge applause. For the next song “The Grace Of The Pirate Queen” we were given a history lesson, back to the times of Elizabeth 1, for a song about Grace O’Malley and her extraordinary life.

The surprises still came thick and fast “As If You Read My Mind” was almost operatic at times while “Hook Line & Sinker” was allocated to the “Jovial Section”. More nods to her influences were to come, “Roses In The Snow” originally heard on an Emmylou Harris record was played on the piano while her version of the Robert Plant / Alison Krauss song “Killing the Blues” was yet another superlative moment.

It is hard to describe just how special an evening this was, for the closing set of the second set the audience were divided into two to provide two separate humming backing tracks while Emily Mae sang “Siren Serenade” accapella, it was exquisitely beautiful and a perfect way to close. To close out the evening and to once again challenge our expectations, the final song was a beautiful cover of Carole Kings, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”. As an evening it was quite unique, thoroughly entertaining, it is safe to say it will not be a further 18 months before we cross paths again.



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