Stunning new release from award winning Scottish folk singer Emily Smith. Beautiful collection of contemporary and traditional material. Recent appearances include Meltdown Festival, BBC Songs of Praise and Transatlantic Sessions. A leading light of the contemporary Scottish folk scene, Emily Smith's powerful, clear vocals have gained her award winning, worldwide recognition. As a songwriter she has been likened to 'a Scottish Joni Mitchell', but as a collector is equally adept at presenting fresh and evocative interpretations of traditional songs. Smith burst onto the folk scene in 2002 when she won BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award. Steering a delicately poised course between the worlds of traditional and contemporary folk recording sessions for BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris, Mike Harding and Aled Jones and was a featured singer on award winning TV series Transatlantic Sessions 4. Alongside her solo career she has worked with artists from the folk scene and beyond including Eddi Reader, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Karine Polwart. Smith's new release, Traiveller's Joy, features songs written on the road throughout 2010 blending alongside traditional material sourced from the travelling people of Scotland. Emily continues to draw inspiration from her home area of Dumfriesshire but this release sees her writing from a more personal viewpoint than before. Covers include 'Waltzing's For Dreamers' by Richard Thompson, whom Emily opened for on his UK tour in 2009 and was subsequently featured at London's Meltdown Festival 2010 during his year as curator.
These days, everyone’s a folkie. It seems that just as in the wake of punk rock, everyone suddenly had short hair and a skinny tie, so in this age of post-fiddly-diddly music, young men and women are growing beards, putting on peasant frocks and sticking brand new recording contracts in their ears. Authenticity is, as ever, the best calling card, and if you’ve medals for singing in the crofts or you can tune your own fiddle, you’re well ahead for a crack at the Radio Two Folk Awards.
Emily Smith certainly covers lots of bases. Authentically Scottish (those Mumford & Sons lads have a massive setback with their public schooling), she danced at ceilidhs and was BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Music of the Year in 2002. She’s as folkie in her roots as the Sex Pistols were punk. And, from its quaintly-misspelled title-track to its Richard Thompson cover, her fifth album gives a strong impression of being in the new folkie/singer-songwriter tradition of Kate Rusby and Laura Marling.
In fact, Smith is a much more mainstream, albeit waif-like singer, than the rest. A fine musician and a talented interpretative singer, Smith avoids the grit that much of the modern scene opts for, and at times – like on the remarkably semolina-esque Dreams and Lullabies – her delivery veers more towards Karen Carpenter rather than, say, Eddi Reader. When small amounts of grit are delivered, as in a version of Thompson’s Waltzing’s for Dreamers, they are covered in a sweet and by no means disagreeable croon.
After a while, the record’s saccharine nature rather starts to overwhelm its musical excellence and Smith’s delightful warble reminds the listener not so much of Joni Mitchell, as some other reviews have claimed, but of that other popular and attractive singer of Celtic origin, Katherine Jenkins. A pretty and well-made record, then, but one perhaps better suited to lingering shots of lovely glens in a trailer for Coast rather than excitable modern listening.
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