Emily Mae Winters - The Green Note
It's been nearly 3 years since we last saw Emily Mae Winters at Bush Hall supporting Molly Tuttle, Covid putting paid to at least two previous attempts As we drove in it was interesting to hear how well Emily's last album"High Romance" has aged, as it never followed any particular trend, it has gained a sort of timeless quality to it and if anything it sounds even better now than on its release.
There was certainly an air of anticipation at the Green Note, few clues were to be gleaned from the stage settings , other than 2 mic stands, and 2 stools which were used more for resting notes and drinks on, than any actual sitting. They would later be joined by a bouquet of flowers but no other clues were to be forthcoming. An extended period away from performing offered the opportunity for pretty much anything to happen and as Emily Mae Winters took to the stage with guitarist Dave Burn in support, it was clear we would be in for for a twin acoustic attack, if indeed some of the softest melodies you will ever hear could be classed as such.
The evening was to be split in to 2 halves, the first saw the rattling off of three new songs in quick succession. The first "( I Don't Think I Could Go Back To ) Before" saw Emily perform with no guitar, it was a mid tempo countryish song, with her voice rising at the end of each line in the sweetest of ways.
"Look in my eyes - I haven't been sleeping
Woke up at five, like a world leader
Who's on my side?, doubts have been creeping
Down from my mind to a tongue so tied"
Only three mnutes in and already we were reminded of quite what it was we had been missing these last few years, a silky smooth voice effortlessly floating between folk and country and lyrical content rarely to be found elsewhere.
For the second song, she would strap on her guitar and gently sway as she played "Burn", with Dave providing the additional backing vocals.
"Lately it takes some falling to your knees
To see the colour of the trees
To see the beauty in the breeze
Lately I go walking in the night
Looking for answers in the skies
Tears in my eyes under an old street light"
The final words of each line delightfully elongated, giving the song a sense of beauty and fragility. It never pays to guess what any Emily Mae Winters song is about, however on first listen, this seemed to come with a heartfelt honesty.
The third new song straight off the bat was "Surrender", "described as a love song to music", it was another example of delicate playing matched to telling words, with music adressed as if it were a person.
"You've always been a constant"
The next song saw a trip back to her debut album and saw a solo performance of "Blackberry Lane", the audience hanging on every word and every gently plucked note.
With Dave back on stage, in quick succession came a couple of "Question" songs, the first "Would The World Stop Turning?", with its anthemic sound, is definitely autobiographical - "This ain't a story - this is my life" she reminds us.
It also has a sadder side as it seems to contemplete what would happen if she were to just give up. The next song
"How Do You Fix A Broken Sun", also touches on the sadder side of life, being a metaphor for inner happiness and the seeming impossibleness of regaining it once it has been lost. Having said all that don't for a second think it is gloomy, far from it, it is a joyous uplifting tune with a final vocal display as fine as anything we have seen all year,
The set was to close with "High Romance"'s lost track, introduced as a new song but in reality more of an unrecorded song, as "Lately" made its live debut at the same time as many of the tracks that would make the last album, but for whatever reasons never made the final cut - it sounded majestic then and years on it still sounds fantastic - probably the closest Emily has come to writing a straight pop song with a chorus to die for.
The second set would prove to be every bit as entertaining as we wandered through more familar parts of the EMW catalogue. For some songs it would mean a return to their origins, "Wildfire" so memorably electric on "High Romance" still possessed a sense of urgency. "Gin Tingles And Whiskey Shivers" saw the Green Note crowd find its voice on the ghost like chorus singalong element - Emily giving out a little chuckle on the final a capella piece of haunting.
A jaunt back to the debut album saw the light folky feel of "Hook Line and Sinker" while for "Miles To Go" has anyone seen 2 guitars played so soft and delicately , while the vocals beautifully entwined around the title. When Emily Mae Winters takes on a cover it is always something to savour, taking off her guitar, her version of "Killing The Blues" would surely get a nod of appreciation from Alison Krauss and confirms Emily as possessing one of the most authentic Americana voices in the UK.
A last few visits to "High Romance" would see the fragile beauty of "One Of These Days" followed by the uplifing poetry of "Come Live In My Heart & Pay No Rent". The encore saw one final piece of swaying for the folky beauty of "Anchor".
It was geast to see Emily Mae Winters striding a stage again , and even better to find her replete with a batch of rock solid tunes that we can't wait to hear again.