What better night to reacquaint ourselves with Emily Mae Winters then on a warm sunny evening in Camden Town. Since we last crossed paths she has engaged a trio of backing musicians on double bass, guitar and drums. She's always been able to effortlessly flit between being the folk and country camps and word has it that her new album due in early 2019 will be heading in a more Americana direction. So with the skylight still letting in the last vestiges of late evening sunlight it was time for a stunning double set to commence.
With pride of place on the stage set aside for Emily's new Gretch guitar and with the drum kit taking up a majority of the rest, barefoot bassist John (JP) Parker had to be content with a place at the side of the stage. The opening song "Lately" immediately delivers on all we've hoping before, a wonderful Americana feel with Emily's voice shining through like a lighthouse beam on a foggy night. If she is to take on Americana it will be on her own terms there will not be many other artists releasing songs about what will happen if the sun went away as in "How Do You Fix A Broken Sun?". It was to be a case of new song after new song and all of them were extremely promising on first listen, "This Land" came with a haunting bass intro and started as a ballad over a sonic soundscape before picking up pace as the song continued. The band excelling themselves in creating a quite moody unsettling backing. especially Jamie Leeming on guitar.
It's hard to see how much longer Emily Mae can stay below the radar, such is the talent waiting to burst through, the next song "Across The Wire" a comment on modern technology was yet another strong new song. With the band then given a short break it was time for Emily Mae to go solo, with a splendid cover of the Robert Plant / Alison Krauss tune "Killing The Blues" followed by another new song "Until The Light" which was another quite an extraordinary vocal display. There then followed a second marvelous cover in the shape of the Dixie Chicks "The Long Way Round" a personal favourite of Emily Mae's which showed the band to their best at full pace. The closing song was something of a contradiction as "Come Live In My Heart" came from a book of traditional Irish songs while at the same time managed to sound completely modern.
It seemed impossible that the first set in which she had bombarded the audience with mainly new material could be bettered but how wrong that assumption would be with a second set which if anything was even better and though some of the songs in part two would be familiar Emily Mae still had a trick or two up her sleeve. One of the more countryish songs from her debut album was "Blackberry Lane" which opened the second set with a glorious bass line running through it and sympathetic percussion from CJ Jones that never threatened to overpower the overall sound, it has never sounded better.
Emily Mae has a great stage presence and is totally at ease dealing with the audience who were pretty much putty in her hands as she kept on delivering with each song, "Miles To Go" came forinstance came with a hilarious drama school anecdote. For a while in the early days Emily Mae also doubled as vocalist with a country band Tumblewood and the next song "Gin Tingles and Whiskey Shivers" dated back to those days, and allowed the band an opportunity to really make some noise, as well as the audience who were able to to join in on the chorus.
As stated earlier, visits to her back catalogue were relatively rare on this evening of recently created gems but when she did, as in "As If You Read My Mind" it was a reminder of just how good that debut album was. There was time for another stirring cover in the form of Gillian Welsh's "Downtown" and a further return to the debut album saw "Hook Line and Sinker" positively bounce along. The set was to close with yet another new song "Would The World Stop Turning?" a quite heavy thought to lay on an audience at the end of the evening as it dealt with her most innermost feelings of artistic doubt such as what would happen if she was to give up. It was in the end the perfect closer a slow building song with a classic full on chorus and any thoughts of calling it a day are hopefully locked away for the forseeable future.
The standing ovation was inevitable, leaving just one more song to close out the evening, "a final dance number!", a rocking finale of the unrecorded "Wildfire". The only question now is can she transfer this batch of new tunes into the classic album it deserves to be? - if she can then the sky could be the limit. There is still time to get on board the Emily Mae Winters express as there is a nationwide tour to come throughout October before the new album next year.