Emily Mae Winters Album Launch with Hannah Rose Platt - The Water Rats
On entering the Water Rats, there was a large huddle of gents eager to get the best spot, anticipating what was surely destined to be one of the album launches of 2019. Occasionally the entrance doors would just open wide enough to let the last few minutes of the soundcheck escape - it only whetted the appetite even more.
On entering the venue proper the stage was set, with the name of the album "High Romance" draped across the stage like a Christmas decoration, the monitors had red roses attached to them and the microphone stands were draped with fairy lights, the scene was certainly set for a special occasion.
Opening the evening would be Hannah Rose Platt, with a mixture of songs old and new, that was enthusiastically received, starting with her ghost story "Chanel & Cigarettes" from her "Portraits" album. Of the new material, a song inspired from a scene in the film "Brooklyn" seemed the strongest, perfectly capturing the mood of a worker who had arrived in America, full of hope and had found himself used up. With lines like "I miss the faces of the children that we won't have" it succeeded in capturing the mood she was hoping for. If that was one emotional ride, the next song, a song dating back to the early 1900's was exceptionally maudlin, "Hello Central Give Me Heaven" detailing the attempts of a young girl to dial heaven to speak to her late mother, would her moved the hardest of hearts with its "Kiss me through the telephone" finale. Closing out the official set with "1954" in which Hannah perfectly captured the confused mind the song is trying to portray. It was a short set but not quite the end for Hannah as she was to be joined by Emily Mae for a duet of "A Life That's Good" from the TV Series "Nashville", it ended with the order to fill up with gin and whisky for the second half!
For the main show, Emily would be joined by long time cohort, the barefoot double bass supremo John "JP" Parker, with the band completed with Simon Treasure on drums who would be effective and unobtrusive for the evening in a venue that can sometimes be swamped by overenthusiastic drummers, while guitars and occasional backing vocals were handled by Dan Beaulaurier . The set opened with JP's bass and Emily gently strumming for the first verse of "Come Live In My Heart & Pay No Rent" the opening rack of the album, before the band kicked in for the second verse. Emily in fine voice and in no fear of being drowned out by her band, was a magnetic, enigmatic figure for the whole evening, it was hard to take your eyes off her. Moving on with the bouncy "Hook Line and Sinker" the evening would in general gravitate towards the Americana direction of the new record but Emily is always at easy floating with whichever genre best suits the song she is about to sing.
For "Gin Tingles & Whiskey Shivers" the crowd provide the requested choreography on cue and if there were any tingles or shivers to be had, they came with the almost ghostly "Ooohh's" of the chorus which were delivered with undoubted gusto. Always the charming hostess, with the ability to build a great rapport with her crowd, Emily was able to turn on a sixpence to next deliver a great ensemble performance of "Blackberry Lane" that was delicately gentle and beautiful. For "Across The Wire" she took off her guitar to sing a wonderfully warm, almost soulful vocal especially on the "sending my love" lines.
The new album is full of little gems, "Would The World Stop Turning?" and the new single "How Do You Fix A Broken Sun" being just two, with the latter featuring some nice guitar work and a finale of breathtaking vocals. The band played a major part in the success of the night, neve rmore so than for "This Land". It opened with JP's "Jaws" like haunting double bass, while Simon bashed out an almost tribal beat accompanied by Dan's excellent guitar flourishes, and became true fusion music which acted as the perfect backing for some dramatic vocals to be laid over.
Extra musicianship arrived in the form of Matthew Atkins on fiddle who gave us a lovely insight into how Emily left a prospective life of hoofing and singing on the West End stages to take up her songwriting full time. In an evening of many highlights it's hard to pick out just one, but "Take Me In" with Emily gently swaying with her guitar, while JP's face was a picture of angst as even he seemed to live each line of the song as if under the spell of Emily's performance in a display of true subtlety. From the gentle, it was over to a rocking home straight, with the audience standing for "Wildfire" which benefited from getting the additional oomph from the excellent fiddle playing, while "Flaming Rose" was sung with a big smile and a fearsome vocal to an audience clapping with delight.
The clapping was to continue into the final song of the main set, which was "Closer" and having dismissed her dancing talents earlier in the evening, she turned in something of sultry shimmy as she brought things to an end. The encore when it came was another high spot in an evening that flew by far to fast, "One Of These Days" was mainly just Emily and an acoustic guitar with the audience proving themselves to be exceptionally tuneful for the chorus. This was quite possibly her best ensemble performance to date and to produce a show this good when the band are still getting to grips with the new material was simply outstanding