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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Vicky Emerson

Steady Heart

Review by Gary Hill

This brand new release from Vicky Emerson is classy stuff. Not only is her voice strong enough to really carry this, but the song writing, instrumental work, production and all make this an exceptional set. In fact, while this is not the kind of thing that's the mainstay of my musical diet, and it is very early times, I'd say there is a good chance that this will wind up in my "best of 2019" list. The music here ranges from more pure country to Americana, folk music and more. It is always effective and varies enough to keep it from ever feeling monolithic.

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Track by Track Review
In the Pines
Rising up from ambience, this works out to a dramatic arrangement. The cut is packed with Americana and some hints of country. The old-school textures on this are all class. The vocals are perfect for this dreamy kind of arrangement. The violin (or should I say "fiddle") adds a lot to it.
Bird's Eye View
Violin starts this, and acoustic guitar joins very quickly. The arrangement remains just those two instruments (with the violin dropping away at first) for the opening vocal movement. This is a slower, mellower cut that gradually gets more instruments and layers of sound added to the mix as it continues. Beyond that, the general mix of genre references  remains mostly unchanged from the opener.
The Reckoning
I love the rocking sound on this. The whole tone is so dramatic and powerful. There is some killer guitar work, too. There is a real old school rock and roll vibe with all the country edge that implies. Yet, this also has a more modern Gothic vibe built into it, too.
Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
This old chestnut gets new life in this slow moving and moody arrangement. This makes great use of roots based, Gothic Americana textures. I really like this a lot. The instrumental jamming on this brings both some traditional country and a modern edge. It also brings a lot of style and "cool."
Good Enough
A balladic number, this is more firmly rooted in pure country than most of the rest of the stuff here. It's a pretty tune. It has a grounding effect on the set. It also lends some variety.
Steady Heart
Another slow, ballad-based piece, this is another that's more fully set in the country vein. There are some hints of bluegrass on this, too, though. This does get a bit more powered up than the previous tune did.
Stone Cold
The violin and twangy, echoey guitar both lend some great things here. This is more based on that modern rock Americana sound. It's dramatic and powerful. The vocal performance seems particularly evocative on this number.
Another balladic piece, this has some echoey electric guitar at its core on the opening. It grows out after a while with more layers adding to the mood and magic of the piece.
The Boat Song
Particularly stripped back, this comes in as just acoustic guitar and voice. It has a folk music vibe to it, but still some hints of country. That said, a lot of folk music has country overtones. It does pick up some piano toward the end, but it doesn't take away from the general vibe. This arrangement really lends an intimate, homey feeling to the cut. It also helps to ground the set as the closer.
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