For somebody who recorded such an inspirational song in ‘Sunday, Monday Blues’ back in the summer of 2012, every subsequent Emma Jane release has to match up to this standard from a personal perspective. Since then a publishing deal has been secured along with some movement in the American market as Emma Jane started to guide her music in a more country direction. 2013’s EP release SILVER STREETS initially followed up her debut full length album PENILEE SONGS and she has further cemented her sound in this sphere with her latest recording WORKHORSE.
The title could well sum up the character of an independent artist who undertakes most of the record making duties right from writing though to doing the PR. Funds have probably limited this release to seven tracks but this doesn’t diminish the quality as Emma Jane continues to cultivate a unique UK take on the country, roots and Americana genre. Her vocals are the main contributors to this stance as their slightly worn effect perfectly matches the blues tinge to her music and owns the mood of the songs.
Along with partner Iain McKinnon, who wrote the lyrics to the more sombre number ‘Unforgiven’, Emma Jane has recorded a set of songs that owe more to the western extremities of Tennessee with a Sun-styled rock n’ roll beat driving the sound. Add in traces of soulful keys and a sparsely recorded gospel-like closing piece to stir in more southern flavours, and you start to further visualise the journey Emma Jane is undertaking without losing sight of her Glasgow roots.
Ears are initially drawn to her self-confessed personally inspired track ‘Carter Cash’ and she is certainly not the first to interweave this iconic couple into a song which rolls along to a guitar driven beat and stakes a case as the record’s standout track. On the topic of musical pairings, Emma Jane has teamed up with fellow Scottish performer Sean C. Kennedy to record a straight down the line country duet ‘Old and Grey’ which romantically explores the notion of eternal love. The track where Emma Jane successful nails the art of searching for that striking chorus melody formula is ‘Delicate Minds’, also one of the album’s deeper songs that searches for guidance.
The opening track ‘Run’ launches the record with a dose of twang as Emma Jane puts down an early marker of what sound she wants to define this phase of her career. Although describing this as a fun number in her song notes, Emma Jane has quickly drawn you into her mode of an infectious beat and the search for a killer chorus. ‘Tunnels’ carries on a similar vein without meeting the same chorus highs as the other tracks. The surprise closer ‘Hold On’ with its simple production and strong message gives the record that raw feel essential to any release with a roots claim.
One development that we are still waiting for from Emma Jane is a wider live presence around the UK with more expansion from her present South East base. While the practicalities may be challenging, the rewards will surely surface. In the meantime the good news is WORKHORSE does evidence progression and while that memorable tune from the summer of 2012 is forever ingrained in my mind, the future remains positive for an artist able to put a personal imprint of the country, roots and Americana genre.