With her second album, High Romance, Emily Mae Winters has taken a big step towards the mainstream. Both ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Gin Tingles & Whiskey Shivers’ would make hit singles even in these strange days. Her backing band makes a big sound which is remarkable given that there are only three of them. Ben Walker clearly enjoys playing electric guitar, there’s John Parker on double-bass and producer Matt Ingram on drums, percussion and piano.
The first track, ‘Come Live In My Heart & Pay No Rent’, is slightly odd, being based on an old Irish poem by Samuel Lover and I couldn’t help feeling that it misplaced in the running order and that ‘Would The World Stop Turning?’, a slow rootsy song about searching for a life never known, would make a better opener. All the other songs are written by Winters and several could be trimmed back to be closer to her earlier folk style. But clearly that isn’t Emily Mae’s intention.
‘This Land’, for example, is about the plight of the outsider; whether refugee, immigrant or runaway isn’t clear, but it’s a powerful statement about fighting to belong. ‘How Do You Fix A Broken Sun?’ is a clever song on the subject of climate change while ‘Take Me In’, although slightly opaque, returns to the theme of the outcast. I particularly like ‘Flaming Rose’, about an office worker living out her dreams of stardom alone in the nights and ‘Across The Wire’ is about separation and the power of the internet to keep people together, at least I think it is.
High Romance is essentially a pop/rock album with touches of country, soul and blues and not at all what I was expecting. Emily Mae’s voice is spectacularly good and her band is excellent but a lot of it doesn’t move me and my attempted interpretations of her writing are speculative at best. Emily Mae Winters is moving on towards a big future but I’m not entirely sure that I’m going to follow her.
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‘Come Live In My Heart & Pay No Rent’ – official video: