SIREN SERENADE - EMILY MAE WINTERS
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Release date: 15th April, 2017
Genre: Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Debut albums are always a pivotal and exciting moment in a career of any new singer-songwriter or musician. A chance to showcase a body of work and introduce themselves to a new audience. One of the most exciting current rising stars of UK Folk and Americana is Cambridge based singer-songwriter Emily Mae Winters. Already establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with, she has been included in many 2016 'end of year' award nominations. Her wonderful debut EP 'Foreign Waters' released last year produced by the multi award winning Ben Walker announced her arrival. Her new debut album 'Siren Serenade' creates a new watershed moment. A album full of high quality crafted music with the rich promise of more excellent music to come in the future. The album is a wonderful fusion of Irish Traditional folk, Contemporary Folk, Country and Americana. It's a combination of self-penned and traditional folk songs which draw inspiration from poetry, myths and stories of love, loss, fate and memory.
In Greek mythology, the 'Sirens' were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. A 'serenade' is a musical composition and/or performance intended to honour an individual and carries the idea of a piece of music sung or played in the open air under the window of his beloved. Think Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story or Cyrano de Bergerac.
On the new album Emily has added an excellent cast of supporting musicians including producer co-producers Ben Walker (Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Piano & Percussion) and Lauren Deakin Davies (Guitar & Percussion). Lukas Drinkwater (Double Bass), Maya McCourt (Cello), Ben Savage (Dobro), Evan Carson (Drums), Jenny Lee Ridley (Flute & Whistle), Dan Camalich (Fiddle), Jack Pout (Boudran), Matthew Atkins (Fiddle), Carl Turner (Acoustic Guitar), Robin Fairey (whistle) and James McNamara (Fiddle). Additional vocals in Siren Serenade and Reprise are beautifully provided by Hannah Saunders, Lauren Parker and Lauren Bush. All the songs are originals written by Emily except 'Fiddlers Green' which was written by John Connolly and the traditional 'Down By The Sally Garden' both which have new arrangements by Emily. A special mention too for the great artwork and photography by the always excellent Elly Lucas
Born in England, Emily Mae Winters grew up Clonakilty, County Cork, where a love of acoustic music was nurtured and encouraged by the local scene and Emily developed a taste for live performance. Influenced by the sounds of traditional and contemporary Folk, Celtic, Country and Americana music, she learned to play the guitar, piano and whistle and began playing local music festivals . A return to London in 2009 to study History at The Royal Holloway saw her begin to flourish as a songwriter and in 2012 she was offered a place to study music and theatre at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD). From an early age, Emily also developed a deep love of poetry. After graduating she performed in numerous theatre productions across the UK whilst continuing to enter songwriting competitions and gigging in and around the heart of the acoustic and roots scene in London, quickly establishing herself as a writer and performer to be reckoned with. After completing her studies, that connection led to Emily working at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden and at Keats House Museum, Hampstead Heath. Emily is now based in Cambridge.
With it's Americana feel the album opens with the sublime 'Blackberry Lane'. It tells the story of Emily's move to Cambridgeshire. As well as Emily on vocals and guitar, the track features acoustic guitar from BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner, Ben Walker (musical partner to Josienne Clarke) and dobro from Ben Savage (of Hannah Sanders and Ben Savage).
Brooding cello and double bass lines complement the first and very worthy addition from Emily's debut EP, the beautiful and award winning 'Anchor'. This wonderful song won the folk category of the Guardian Music songwriting contest in association with Sony Music UK. It's one of my favourites on the album. Emily’s rich and pure vocal builds in intensity from gentle finger-picked acoustic guitar as her vocal is joined by wonderful string arrangements. Emily's love of poetry and lyrics shines through as she paints beautiful and deeply atmospheric word pictures.
Written by John Connolly and made famous by The Dubliners, Emily's cover of 'Fiddler's Green' is irish lament with flute, fiddle and bodhran. Fiddler's Green is a legendary supposed afterlife, where there is perpetual mirth, a fiddle that never stops playing, and dancers who never tire. In 19th-century maritime folklore it was a kind of afterlife for sailors who have served at least 50 years at sea.
As befitting enticing and bewitching sirens the title track 'Siren Serenade' seduces with its rich harmonies, rhythmic hum and finger clicks. It has a real 'O Brother, Where Art Thou? feel. It echoes the temptresses of the movie Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch singing "Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby". It has a real spiritual quality. Love this one too. The piano led and reflective 'As If You Read My Mind' with it's acoustic and bright sounding electric guitar interplay is another classic and high quality song.
The Hook, Line and Sinker are the three essential pieces of fishing tackle in angling. Also the phrase 'to swallow something "hook, line and sinker" ' is an idiomatic expression to describe a situation where a person or group accepts wholesale and uncritically an idea or set of beliefs. Returning to an Americana flavour the next album track 'Hook, Line & Sinker' sparkles with it's dobro, banjo and soft brushed percussion added the perfect backing to Emily's vocals. A very lovely written song and the second track from her debut EP is 'Miles To Go', a finalist in last year’s UK Songwriting contest. A love song spanning across the oceans, encouraging her lover to reach out, to explore new possibilities and met her halfway. "Like a moth to flame, I still stay close to you and I will wait for you across the water, but you’ve got miles to go". Watch out for the lovely steel guitar solo from Ben.
'Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art— Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night’ (John Keats). Emily's next track 'The Star' released as a winter single was inspired by the themes of fate, love and transience in John Keats’ poem 'Bright Star'. Beautiful live with the wow! factor. The video was filmed at St. Giles In The Field (near Denmark Street) in West London.
We head for the broody dark oceans for the feisty and lively sea shanty 'The Ghost of The Pirate Queen'. Based on the flame haired and fiery tempered Anne Bonny. A fearsome Irish pirate operating in the Caribbean in the 1700's. Love the whistle and fiddle interplay in this one, which really sets the scene perfectly.
'Down by the Salley Gardens' (Irish: Gort na Saileán) is a poem by William Butler Yeats first published in 'The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems' in 1889. It has been suggested that the location of the "Salley Gardens" was on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo where the residents cultivated trees to provide roof thatching materials. "Salley" or "sally" is a form of the word "sallow" (A tree of the genus Salix). It is close in sound to the Irish word 'saileach', meaning willow. This is a exquisite arrangement and version of the traditional love song
For the final track the piano led 'Reprise' the Siren's return in full force. It has a real theatrical quality and would fit perfectly into a Andrew Lloyd Webber West End production.