Album Review: Emily Scott Robinson, ‘American Siren’

The title of Emily Scott Robinson’s new album is just right, for her soaring, siren-like vocals pull us in with such emotion that they carry us to a world outside ourselves and make us forget momentarily the world around us.

Dazzling three-part harmony—with Alexa Rose on high harmony and Abigail Dowd on low vocals—that recalls the Trio albums of Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt, “Old Gods” rides over the swirling layers of Duncan Wickel’s cello and Joe McPhail’s organ. The song’s high lonesome quality provides the perfect foundation for the evocative Celtic-tinged ballad of lost love. The haunting refrain gently mimic’s the singer’s resignation to her loss, even as it casts out fear on the churning waters that might carry back hope back on the crest of a wave: “Carry my prayers on the ocean/Carry my prayers on the sea/Carry my prayers on the ocean/Carry my prayers on the sea/One day you’ll come home to me.” The shuffling “Things You Learn the Hard Way” offers a wry look—reminiscent of Brandy Clark—at the lessons life teaches us; her litany of such experiences ranges from the mundane—keeping your gas tank filled, always checking your oil—to the gut-wrenching: “Be sure to call your Mama/Every Sunday after mass/You won’t be ready when you lose her/And it happens way too fast.” Clark’s “What Will Keep Me out of Heaven” might have been the perfect cheating song—until now. Floating over a bed of shimmering steel guitar, “If Trouble Comes A Lookin” slowly unfurls, capturing the yearning of a two lovers for each other on a cruise ship and the unexpected identities of the two lovers. The raucous, rocking country rambler “Cheap Seats” tells the story of a waitress who’s a singer looking for that big break, while the poignant bluegrass ballad “Hometown Hero” recalls the best of Nanci Griffith’s early work. With a sonic resemblance to the Kendalls’ “Real People,” “Every Day in Faith” spirals upward and upward on Robinson’s pure, clear ethereal vocals. The album closes with the joyous bluegrass breakdown “Old North State.”

On American Siren Emily Scott Robinson’s crystalline vocals reverberate vibrantly in the songs on her new album as they pluck the emotional filaments that bind us to one another. Robinson inhabits her songs of loss and love with an effortless grace that illumines the shadows that sometimes haunt us to reveal the gleaming facets of our lives that we often overlook.

American Siren is available HERE


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