Vincent Neil Emerson
Vincent Neil Emerson
La Honda Records / Thirty Tigers
A Reflective, Thoughtful and Warmly Human Set of Texas Singer-Songwriter Tales.
Arising and evolving out of a tradition of Texas songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle, Vincent Neil Emerson throws his contribution to that body of sound with gusto; and comes out with his own distinct take, on this self-titled release.
There are elements of these listed influences scattered through the album – “Learnin’ to Drown” is vocally very Steve Earle in essence, and opener “Texas Moon” has the melodic feel of a young Guy Clark (and a bit of non-Texan John Prine too?) while “The Ballad of Choctaw-Apache” is very much in the Van Zandt story song mould.
Such pigeon-holing would do Vincent Neil Emerson a disservice though – those are just starting points to get a handle on where his music has been birthed form, inspirationally, and there’s a lot more personal observations and experience too in this album.
The aforementioned “Learning to Drown” is a cathartic release, dealing with Emerson’s father’s passing:
“And I thought about closin’ the door
And endin’ it all
Like my father did before
But it ain’t worth
All the people who won’t see me anymore”
Then there’s the earlier released single; “High on Getting By” which is a man coming to terms with the terms of our existence
“Well I been drunk
On the ideas of my future
And I been high
On gettin’ by”.
Both are musically framed with washes of acoustic stringed instruments like mandolin and fiddle along with keyboards around a picked guitar and Emerson’s caramel vocals.
Vincent Neil Emerson has certainly done his dues on the road, playing with friend Colter Wall, The Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett too; and that road-toughness and sensitivity to other musicians is prominent throughout his own songs.
Stylistic changes such as shifts into bluegrass territory on “High On the Mountain” and the Western Swing flavoured album closer “Saddled Up and Tamed” are handled and sequenced with careful placing – big praise must go to producer Rodney Crowell here too; who has forged a big and warm sound throughout; yet still managing to make each song sound ever so intimate at the same time.
There are gems of lines to be found everywhere:
“I pulled into Austin
‘Cause Fort Worth ain’t the same” from “High on the mountain” is one of many that will bring a wry knowing smile to any listener’s face.
Over the ten tracks of the album, there’s a great deal of variety and depth but at the same time, there’s a clear Vincent Neil Emerson “sound” that is more than a just a composite of his influences.
If Country singer-songwriter is your bag and you’re missing some of those that have left us and are looking for the next wave to roll up on the shore, you could do worse than getting your feet wet on this thoughtful and warmly human showcase of Vincent Neil Emerson tunes.
Review by Nick Barber
Released June 25th 2021
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