Emily Smith: Echoes

I first listened to Emily Smith around ten years ago when a track of hers was included on The Rough Guide to Scottish Music CD which had been sent for review. The song was from her debut album and her voice immediately stood out in the same way that Misako Oshiro’s had several years before when I first heard her singing a traditional Okinawan song. Smith was born a long way from Okinawa and is from Dumfries and Galloway. She has gone on to quietly forge an important place for herself in Scotland’s folk pantheon. Echoes is her fifth album and almost certainly her best yet.

She has also taken part in the Transatlantic Sessions, a series of gatherings in Scotland which bring together eminent musicians from Ireland, Scotland and the USA to live, play and record together in the same setting. This new album has obviously been influenced by that experience and there is more than a hint of American music running through it while still being heavily rooted in Scotland.

Echoes

Smith’s band, which includes husband and producer Jamie McClennan on guitar, fiddle and backing vocals, is joined by several guests including Tim Edey (guitar and melodeon), Natalie Haas (cello), Aoife O’Donovan, Kris Drever and Rory Butler (all backing vocals). Transatlantic Sessions man Jerry Douglas supplies dobro and lap steel on the album’s longest song the traditional ballad ‘Clerk Saunders’. His contribution was recorded in Nashville but most of the album was made on home ground in Dumfriesshire.

Seven of the ten songs are traditional and as expected Smith sings everything beautifully. The added touch of Americana doesn’t dilute the force of the old songs but makes a richer texture as gifted musicians interplay behind Smith’s vocals. The strongest performances are two tracks in the middle of the album – Archie Fisher’s poignant ‘The Final Trawl’ and the traditional song ‘Twa Sisters’. The epic ‘Clerk Saunders’ is another highlight. It all adds up to another step forward for a fine singer.

Echoes is released by White Fall Records.

www.emilysmith.org

www.whitefallrecords.com

 

 

 

 

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