The difference between just-another-white-girl-musician and Emily White is heart. It is the key to her music and possibly to her self and most people will miss that, because she is fresh from the cocoon and not quite ready to fly, but her wings are drying and she will soon be airborne. Then, we will look back to this EP as a marker. A Beginning.
That beginning lays out seven original songs (and one answering machine tribute to the Red Sox). Of the seven, three stand out. Typical is a three o'clock in the morning look at what could have been but isn't. Fine cello by Scott Burns turns it from a good coffeehouse tune into a keeper and while the lyrics at first seem a bit clumsy, persistent listening prove them fitting. Stranger's Hands rides a rhythm guitar hook that sticks in your head (with background vocal effects that are thumbs up). Everything For This rides the relationship train and one wonders just how many failed relationships one can endure, though perhaps failed love is part of who Emily White is, even if she has never experienced it. The key to these three tracks are fine underlying acoustic guitar and Emily's sense of delivery. Sometimes simple phrasing makes a song that much better.
The remaining tracks push the envelope in the folk/jazz vein, with a little straight ahead rock thrown in for good measure. Well done, but if you don't listen closely, you miss a lot. In other words, this is not dishwashing music (well, maybe meditative dishwashing music).
There is a voice struggling to get out here and, on the whole, it succeeds, but certain moments give pause and though nothing major, they are there. She has a hitch in her swing here and there, to use a baseball metaphor, the instances are miniscule when listening to the overall result. Somewhere down the line, she will lose the hitch and find the balance and then, oh boy.
Emily White, like so many young musicians, is a work in progress, which shouldn't be a big surprise because if she weren't, she wouldn't have marketed this EP on her own but would instead have deposited a boatload of money in the nearest vault while leaving the grunt work to a major label. Of course, that label would most likely have scooted her into a studio of its choice to work with a producer of its choice to produce songs of its choice and on and on and the Emily White we would hear would be quite different than what we have here. Instead, we're served a menu of an indie working like hell to be better and sometimes succeeding while at others, well....
In this instance, though, it is a good thing. Think of it. Her first project, self-produced (well, co-produced, anyway). Her first daunting attempt to lay open the real Emily White, warts and all, to criticism from the likes of us (and, really, how many of us would do it). It is a good first time around. The ball is rolling and she will learn, and with this yardstick EP for reference, it will be great fun to mark the progress.
Emily plays the circuit around Chicago and is presently branching out to include St. Louis and whatever other cities in the Midwest she can breach (Chicago is in the Midwest, is it not?). It might be well worth the effort.
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