Miss Emily – Defined By Love | Album Review

Miss Emily – Defined By Love

Self-Release – 2022


12 tracks; 45 minutes

Miss Emily (Emily Fennell) is from Ontario, Canada, and has been making music since the beginning of the millennium. However, under the ‘Miss Emily’ moniker this is her fourth album release, following studio albums in 2011 and 2017, plus a live compilation put together during the pandemic. For this album she recorded with Steve Marriner (MonkeyJunk) at the controls. The band is Jim Bowskill on guitar, Steve O’Connor on keys, Seamus Cowan on bass and Rob Radford or Ian McKeown on drums; Tom Moffett (trumpet), Bunny Stewart and Andrew Moljgun (saxes) appear on four tracks. Emily is on lead vocals (and piano on one cut) and backing vocals come from Ben Vandergaast, Steve Marriner, Quisha Wint and Lynn Fennell. Rob Baker adds guitar to a track that he co-wrote and Steve steps out from behind the glass to play the guitar solo on one track. The material is all original apart from two covers.

Emily has a strong and clear voice but readers need to be warned that although there are some good songs and the album is well produced there is scant blues here. The two covers perhaps reveal some of Emily’s influences: The Trews are a Canadian rock band and their song “To The End Of The World” is a gentle ballad with nice harmonies; the far better known Radiohead are the source of “Just” which pounds along over a strong guitar riff supported by the horns. The closest we get to blues is “Make It Rain”, a title familiar from John Hiatt’s and Foy Vance’s songs of the same title. This one, however, is Emily’s own song about redemption and renewal with a powerful lead vocal and good harmonies, the horns in discreet support on the choruses.

The remaining tracks include catchy Americana like the title track which has a soaring repetitive chorus and “Silver Lining” with its upbeat, positive vibe; keys and horns give a slight New Orleans feel to “Friends, Lovers, Foes” and “Glory” provides a good vehicle for Emily’s towering vocal. Emily includes several stripped-back ballads, like her memoir to someone who somehow never quite achieved what they might have; perhaps they have “One Song Left”, as Emily accompanies herself on piano over a string arrangement performed by guitarist Jim Bowskill. In similar style, “Three Words” is another piano-led song full of angst and “The Keeper” also sounds doom-laden, Emily accompanied just by co-writer Rob Baker on guitar, as she sings that “I’m holding space for you”.

This is one that committed blues fans can leave aside, but those whose tastes also include Americana with strong female vocals may unearth a gem here.

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