"High Romance" is the second album from Emily Mae Winters, and sees her spread her wings and head off in a more Americana direction which seems a more natural resting place to me, although as we've mentioned many times before Emily Mae can effortlessly move between genres and would probably hate to be pigeonholed into any particular area.
The album was recorded over a ridiculously short period of time and sometimes the added pressure of a tight timeline seems to focus artists attention into getting the key elements across and this album is a testament to this, with each track uncluttered by over production leaving a result that is pure and unfussy, with each instrument allowed to shine and Emily Mae's vocals given free reign.
Assisted by an excellent team of musicians, John "JT" Parkers rich warm bass sound works great with Matt Ingram's excellently recorded drum sound while Ben Walker's inventive guitar work throughout the record is a revelation. All of this providing the perfect backing for Emily Mae's vocal talents which have been excellently captured
The striking cover of Emily Mae on a high wire while dressed to the nines seems to be something of a visual pun on the album title, and like the album, it is perfectly balanced. The inner booklet is filled with quotes from William Shakespeare to Stevie Nicks to John Greenleaf Whiitier a 19th Century Quaker Poet who probably has not featured on too many cd booklets up to this point in time, all are point to that fact that we are in no way dealing with a run of the mill artist.
The album opens to JT's double bass and a plaintive repeated piano note on "Come Live In My Heart & Pay No Rent", the words based on a traditional Irish poem by Samuel Lover, another 19th Century poet. It is as blatant a declaration of love as there can be for it leaves no room for misinterpretation, quite what the recipient would make of it is open to debate as it is so unconditional - "Your home is right here and it's somewhere you've longed for". The opening minute or so being something of a gateway from the folkier previous album "Siren Serenade" with the guitar that kicks in after a minute signalling that this album is going to plough a distinctly different furrow.
"This Land" is a real ensemble piece, the rhythm from the drums, the guitar lines all go to make a most atmospheric background for a song dealing with displacement, and wanting to belong, for arriving in a new place comes with the realisation that life does not become instantly easier "As i rest here, still the people call me stranger, share no burden share no seeds that I can sew"
An insight into the mind of a singer comes with "Would The World Stop Turning?" with Emily Mae reflecting on what would happen if she was to stop heading down the performing route. The opening verses are a glimpse into her early years "Can she pour all this yearning into a life that she's never known", and in case there is any doubt she confirms "This ain't a story - this is my life". Beneath a beautifully gentle tune is a brutally honest insight into the life of a singer "How can days seem so familiar when there's barely a face that she knows".
One of the oldest songs on the album is "Gin Tingles & Whiskey Shivers" which dates back to her time fronting an Americana band, is an alcohol fuelled close encounter "Seventh drink on the rocks take an eighth just for luck". With an almost ghostly delivered chorus and a combination of drumming and clapping all go to make a quite unusual tune.
One of the many stand out moments of the album is undoubtedly "How Do You Fix A Broken Sun", the gradually swelling background is matched by Emily Mae's vocals getting ever louder and startlingly impressive. The album is full of literary references and this is using the sun as a metaphor for your inner spirit that defines who you are and what you can achieve, with no sun, nothing would grow and it would be both dark and cold, it is but a short leap to transfer that into a human condition and the helplessness that comes when "i've read all the books and exhausted my tools".
Driven by a deceptively simple repeating guitar refrain is "Take Me In", which comes with a vocal delivered so delicately you hear the pronounciation of every syllable as it leaves her lips. With JT's double bass ominously circling the track like a Great White it is something truly special
A complete change in many ways is "Flaming Rose", for this is most definitely a story song, telling the tale of Rose who by day works on the seventh floor in telesales with " a dream you'll never see". The dream unlikely as it seems is to run off with the circus With at least a couple of guitar riffs running through it and a vocal performance that could cause walls to tumble this is one the best tunes i've heard all year - electrifying.
If we had any expectations of what Emily May might do with an Americana based album then she has knocked them completely out of the park - "Closer" has an urgency provided by a drum beat and some real clapping for a change as well as some funky bass lines from JT that go to make something just a little different. With lyrics pointing to someone ready to potentially dip their feet into the lake of romance once again "You had locked you heart away - is it safe to come out of hiding". Complete with a sudden ending this is another completely original sounding track.
In another change of pace, an echoing guitar accompanies an electric drum beat to produce a quite unconventional background on "Across The Wire", which deals with with how people meet up in the modern internet age.
"High Romance" marks the arrival of a new force on the Americana scene with 11 songs recorded with a great attention to detail that will continue to reward the listener. Emily Mae's vocal performance on this record from the tenderest whispers that barely leave her lips to the fullest controlled power vocals are simply a joy to listen to - hopefully the first of many contributions to the Americana scene.