Album Review

Emily Scott Robinson - American Siren

It appears that Emily Scott Robinson can no longer be labelled as an emerging talent; with this album she’s surely already there.

Holler Country Music

link icon

Link copied

You can purchase American Siren from Holler's selected partners below:

Holler Country Music

Oh Boy Records | 2021

Amazon ButtonRough Trade ButtonListen on Apple Music Button

Items featured on Holler are first selected by our editorial team and then made available to buy. When you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

When you listen to Emily Scott Robinson’s debut for Oh Boy Records – her third full-length album so far – you can feel her influences and individuality pour forth.

Hailing from Colorado, she started songwriting after seeing the late, great Nanci Griffith perform, and is just a little bit in love with bluegrass. She also nabbed the ideal producer in Jason Richmond, who has worked with the Avett Brothers and Steep Canyon Rangers (with a couple from the latter outfit guesting on the record).

There’s lots to love on opening track ‘Old Gods’, with its simple arrangement, sweet vocals and warm harmonies reminiscent of Iris DeMent and Courtney Marie Andrews. The mystical, new agey start of ‘Things You Learn The Hard Way’ shines with instrumental warmth. It’s a deliberately slow, cautionary tale with wry, witty warnings about simple mistakes you can make growing up, and wisdom that comes through experience.

Vivid imagery dominates ‘If Trouble Comes A Lookin’, as a relationship ends with a woman loosening her wedding ring, while a holy man, Brother John, runs his fingers through his rosary beads. Their fates seem intertwined, and it’s almost cinematic as “they tangle in each other’s arms”.

Echoing Diana Jones, ‘Let ‘Em Burn’ is a perfect, piano-led miniature, with strident, echoey chords under lyrics of a white picket fence, quiet street and faithful wife who goes to church and says her prayers but has “never felt the breath of God”. There’s unfathomable sadness as she cries herself to sleep on the bathroom floor, trying to keep her head above water, afraid to be alone.

The most intimate and personal song is ‘Hometown Hero’ dedicated to her late cousin, James, about a departed military man and the family he left behind. Banjo and mandolin from Steep Canyon Rangers duo Graham Sharp and Mike Guggino, plus ghostly fiddle, underpin memories of his serving in Afghanistan, the demons and the war inside his head before he killed himself.

‘Every Day In Faith’ creates an unearthly mood with plucked and sawed double bass as she declares devotion and passion, yet wonders if she might not have embarked on her chosen course if she’d “seen the hills and valleys on the road”.

There’s courtly fiddle at the heart of ‘Lightning In A Bottle’ as she remembers her last summer of being a teenager, returning to her roots years later. Magical memories are summoned up with snatched couplets, breathless with excitement, even now as she stumbles on an old love letter.

On closing track 'Old North State', there’s a final, welcome uplift with hoedown hillbilly fiddle, folky mandolin and bluegrassy banjo from the Steep Canyon Rangers boys again, kicking up some good vibes and showing the artist’s creative versatility.

It appears that Emily Scott Robinson can no longer be labelled as an emerging talent; with this album she’s surely already there.

8/10

American Siren is out on Friday October 29 via Oh Boy Records.