TO MY ROOTS - EMMA STEVENS
LCM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
- Release Date: 21st July, 2017.
- Genre: County/Folk-Pop, Singer-Songwriter
- Record Label: Soft Rock
- Tracks: 13
- Website: https://emmastevensmusic.com/
- Review By: Gary Smith (LCM)
I must confess from the very start that I'm a big fan of Emma's music and supported the successful Pledge crowdfunding campaign for her new album 'To My Roots' . If I could describe it simply, it would be happiness and sunshine with added sparkle and a Californian West Coast vibe. But this isn't just straight-forward simple UK Country-Folk Pop Rock. It's highly crafted, beautifully arranged and performed.....and very radio friendly. I love Emma's crisp pure vocals and production on the album.. 'To My Roots' also has a lot of the same elements and production values which have made Ward Thomas' recent No.1 album 'Cartwheels' so successful. It also reminded me of the clever lyric writing of Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clarke and Shaun McAnally. Emma’s new album is collection of songs inspired by the eclectic mix of music she grew up listening to. Everything from James Taylor through Eric Clapton and Paul Simon to The Dixie Chicks, The Corrs, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley. “I love country music and was lucky enough to spend a month in Nashville recently writing, collaborating and immersing myself in the culture” comments multi-instrumentalist Emma who plays guitar, piano, ukulele, cello, banjo and mandolin. All the songs on the album are written or co-written by Emma except her cover of 'Walking On Sunshine'.
Emma describes her songs as, “all written from my heart and soul to convey beautiful messages based on feelings of loss, happiness, nature, my love for the ocean and my love for people”.
The album begins with the very catchy lead single 'Sing Out (Hey La Hey La). A great positive and aspirational summer anthem. "Every life un-lived is a song unsung"
With a strong Kacey Musgraves vibe the upbeat and clever 'Money Can't Buy Me' is a real toe-tapper with a sage message 'Happiness comes for free.....it can't be bought' . The high energy and catchy autobiographical title track 'To My Roots' follows the path of Emma's musical journey so far. "There were no signs to guide me. Only strangers who were kind. They offered me directions to the dreams I'd left behind.....Today I've got no cares and woes. I love the life I chose heaven knows. I'm on my way and getting close" I really like the pedal steel solo and the positive message to find your path and to 'learn and grow'.
The pace slows a little for the beautifully written and tender 'Brave' . Encouragement for when times get tough. "Be brave when the rain comes down hard and your world falls apart. Nothing's ok....you don't know where to start....be brave". We move into the subject of relationships in 'Achilles Heel' . A perfect slice of pop with her love interest is her biggest weakness. We move to the important subject and consequences of 'Loyalty' in the bouncy pop-rock track. Using earthquakes and feeling of the after-shook as a metaphor. Emma 'doesn't need a friend, that doesn't know the meaning of loyalty'. Watch out of the lovely string arrangement and electric guitar solo.
'Song & Dance' is a beautiful piece of country-pop-rock accented with pedal steel and banjo, hand-claps, driving percussion and plenty of 60's girl group 'Hey Hey Hey's' and 'Sha La La La's'. 'SIng a song for the broken-hearted, dance a dance for a love departed... Let your kindness be your wings, feel the joys that the morning brings. Make the best of everything, we can get through anything". The gentle finger picked acoustic guitar 'Slow' is another tender song about love and relationships. 'Slower than the ocean, floating in slow motion. Stop the clocks and hold the moon. Don't let the sun come up too soon. I never want to let you go....Let tonight be slow"
Starting with a western saloon piano introduction 'Shoot The Breeze With Me' quickly gets into its stride. You can imagine this highly infectious track being a live crowd favourite. With it's sparkling piano base 'Written In The Stars' is just a lovely written, personal and heart-felt piece of music about fighting to save a relationship. In a live show this would be the point where everyone turns on their mobile phone lights and gently waves them in the air.
The free spirited 'With You' follows on perfectly from 'Written in the stars'. With the theme of wanting to be with the one you love "In the middle of a crazy ocean. On a night that never ends. Hopeless lovers and the best of friends." We are transported to the Caribbean for the next huge slice of positively and sunshine 'Let in The Good'. Another single contender from Emma, who is the mistress of the catchy hook. "In no hurry, I got no restraints. In with the yeahs and out with the aint's....Love's the answer you already know. So let the good flow." Emma's vocals in the song really remind me of Charlotte Campbell.
Very appropriately the closing song on the album is 'Walking on Sunshine' a beautiful cover of a Kimberley Rew song made famous by Katrina and The Waves who won the Eurovision song contest. Emma's dream-like piano version is slower than the original and shows real heart. Don't be surprised if this is used in a forthcoming advert or soundtrack.
For all those singer-songwriters who struggle to write a happy song, you have thirteen examples from a mistress of the craft. 'To My Roots' is a joyous collection of positive and inspirational high quality music sparkling with rays of sunshine.