Home-made rock and roll with blissful dashes of Americana and superb songwriting every step of the way – this is an album built to embrace and be embraced in times of struggle. It’s a powerful collection of deeply reflective, emotive yet warming tracks, and it leads with a gorgeously raspy, expressive vocal line, and a slightly fuzz-kissed indie-rock arrangement that sets the mood in an instant.
Singer and songwriter Brain Edwards, known to the music world as EMERALD, boasts years of inspiration and influence from Thin Lizzy to Pink Floyd and AC/DC. Many of these favorites appear throughout the songs on this album, but throw in that Johnny Cash-like vocal and some notably intimate songwriting, and the sound becomes something of its own entirely.
Following a Chrismassy intro, Baby Got Something is the first absolute anthem to appear on the project. A blues-rock tune with a simple hook that quickly gets you involved.
Afterwards, that heavy aura kicks in for the powerful and dramatic Call Home – a song that tells a story, detail by detail, and resolves with a quality switch from short lines to a more grunge-like, long-form hook.
While it’s easy to pinpoint and recognize EMERALD’s style, this album is still decidedly eclectic from one song to the next. With Collide, for example, we’re transported to the cinematic realm of motorcycle lifestyles and smokey rock bars – although, the vocals are surprisingly gentle, reflective again and poetic in their consideration of deeper topics. Brian even makes some interesting structural choices that remind you to pay attention; the creative is at work.
Then we get the subtle swagger and riff-led melodic colour of Feels Like Dirt, a completely different type of song, but still EMERALD by all accounts – perhaps now suited to one of the less intense scenes of Sons Of Anarchy.
Then the pace picks up again, for a strangely familiar, satisfying anthem that is Home. Utterly gravelly vocals passionately strain their way through the emotional integrity of these short lines amidst a brilliantly energizing soundscape.
This versatility continues throughout, moments of Americana are greeted by those which kick in with the full-force of a heavy amplifier. In every case, EMERALD knows how to write a hook, and a riff, and how to keep plenty of character at the forefront of the process. This is classic rock, but it’s a fresh approach – with some fresh songwriting to match.
Other highlights include the solo-sensational Monkeys In Trees, the subsequent rhythm, blues and personal melancholy of Never Satisfy Me, and the delicate acoustic calm of SmallTown – a stand-out for its MTV-unplugged purity and intimacy; a heartbreakingly beautiful song, which hits with greater impact thanks to its placement within such a high-energy playlist. The closing track 51 is also a stunner – a story-teller, and a beautifully crafted piece of music and performance; a welcomed hint of Wish You Were Here shines briefly in the acoustic riff.
In reality, there’s not a bad song on this project – not even close. If you’re craving something new yet familiar enough to connect with, this is an easy choice, and EMERALD is categorically an artist worth knowing about whenever the global live-scene returns to grace our world.