Album Review

Emily Nenni - Drive & Cry

A succession of smart, clipped odes to the life of a working musician and the lessons that you learn at the bar as well as behind it.

Emily Nenni - Drive & Cry Album Cover
May 1, 2024 2:55 pm GMT
Last Edited May 2, 2024 11:12 am GMT

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Emily Nenni - Drive & Cry

Label: New West Records

Producer: John James Tourville

Release Date: May 2, 2024


1. Get To Know Ya 

2. Greatest Hits 

3. Lay Of The Land 

4. I Don’t Have To Like You 

5. Drive & Cry

6. Changes 

7. I Don’t Need You 

8. I Can’t Pretend It Never Happened 

9. Rootin’ For You 

10. We Sure Could Two Step

11. Set On The Steps

12. Amarillo Highway

With her new record Drive & Cry, Emily Nenni returns to Nashville to brazenly tread the dark, worn and truthful side streets of a city that would rather blind you in the lights of its growing metropolis. It’s a succession of smart, clipped odes to the life of a working musician and the lessons that you learn at the bar as well as behind it.

Nenni’s vocal, as ever, is both her forte and her foible. It’s an elegant, feline voice that slinks between great open yowls of emotion on the reflective ‘We Sure Could Two Step’ and sultry low purrs on the forward-looking ‘Changes’. She wraps her voice around words, capturing and playing with them like a hungry predator drawing every last drop of satisfaction from its prey. Yet in its uniqueness, it’s also an acquired taste. It’s one that leaves you thankful that she’s not ironed out her diction, but regretful that her vocal isn’t turned up to avoid getting lost in the mix, as it does on songs like opener ‘Get To Know Ya’.

Still, cats are crafty, and she’s adept at re-purposing her voice for honky tonk romp tunes that play the piano like a rock star’s muse, as on the rollicking ‘I Don’t Need You’, with its playfully splashed backing vocals, and the swaggering ‘I Don’t Have To Like You’. It morphs again for more brooding moments, particularly on the true country and western trill of ‘Lay Of The Land’ or standout ‘Set On the Steps’, her voice inviting you to bathe in the thrum of its lullaby legato as she paints a floating reflection on slowing down and rediscovering love.

The lyrics are skilfully confessional and relatable, Nenni’s intrinsic sense of cool inviting us to romanticise such everyday topics as death and taxes, concerns over the circumference of one’s thighs, friends becoming foes, and making sure to tip your bartender. Its relatability peaks on the title track ‘Drive & Cry’, as she coos across a jaunty background piano jingle “don’t you worry about me / I’m gonna have a bawl”.

It’s a mature record, one that has no scores to settle or fights to pick; this may make it less exciting, but it’s broad and honest. It’s a product of both the life she’s lived and a natural wisdom that feels hard-earned; a craft hewn by bar rooms filled with cigarette smoke and bar brawls rather than smoke machines and #clapbacks. Still, Drive & Cry’s greatest achievement may be its ability to capture both.


Emily Nenni's 2024 album, Drive & Cry, is released May 3 via New West Records.

For more on Emily Nenni, see below:

Written by Holly Smith
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