Release Date: 18th June 2016
You’ve never heard of Caherdavin, be honest. I’ve never heard of it and I live at the other end of a comparatively small island. I’ve heard of Emma Langford though and so should you. She’s the girl about to put the north Limerick townland firmly on the map.
She grew up in one of those houses, packed to the rafters with talent, creativity and music. A product of visual artist parents and a BA in Voice and Dance graduate from University of Limerick, there’s both nature and nurture in the development of this exciting new songwriter and it shows.
Emma’s eponymous EP was recorded earlier this year in Dunmanway, Co. Cork with producer Clint Fitzgerald. He also added piano, guitar, lap steel and percussion to Langford’s vocals and basslines of Peter Hanaghan.
On first listen, you’re instantly transported to rural Ireland. The string intro conjured images of barren, windswept coastlines before the verse rolls in with a swagger Ronnie Drew would have been proud of. ‘You Are Not Mine’ is the first of the bittersweet tunes to grace this work. Emma muses “heartbreak and liquor play games inside your head”. It’s the classic country song combination but delivered with a sweetness of vocal, sometimes reminiscent of a young Andrea Corr.
Little on this record is what you’d expect from a traditional folk artist. Less still, is what you imagine a meretwenty-six-year-old to sound like. ‘The Seduction of Eve’ and ‘All You Want’ are the most accessible tunes for the folk fan, while ‘Closed Book’ experiments with pounding toms and vocal distortions to mesmerising effect.
For too long, we’ve gazed out across the Atlantic for talented female writers with silky smooth voices but there’s always been a strong tradition of powerful women on Ireland’s shores. From Cara Dillon to the likes of Lisa Hannigan, but at times Emma Langford just oozes soul akin to Bronagh Gallagher.
‘Tug O’ War’ is the epitome of the blues. Not the ballsy riffing of twelve-bar blues, more that moment when you put on your favourite Tom Waits record because all the Leonard Cohen is getting too much. The cliché blues starts with a “woke up this morning”, but sometimes life is so utterly crushing that the waking up in the morning is the hard part.
It’s a tough thing to put into words. Unless you’ve been there, it’s difficult to express that crippling feeling of not being able to eat, sleep, get up and get things done. Yet, that’s the basis of this focal point on the EP. Some of us use red wine and the reviewer’s ability to slip subtle nuances in where least expected. When you’ve got the creative talent of Emma Langford you hit the ground running in the most literal senses and let that post workout shower form the rhythm and backdrop to a quickly written but all too real record.
The EP closes with the charming Pacific pop of ‘Goodbye Hawaii’. This is your moment in the sun after what’s been a rather intense listen at times. It’s got all the fun of Elvis at the movies, of early Brian Wilson or the last She and Him records. Langford playfully faux-trumpets through the bridge, without breaking from silky smooth delivery. It’s warm and charming. It’s goodbye to Hawaii and aloha and welcome to the scene Emma Langford!