Terry Emm’s Wish You Were Here is a return, after a seven-year hiatus, with an introspective, melodically addictive, and really nice folk album.
Now, perhaps, Ralph McTell summed the soul of all the singer-songwriters with the words from his song, ‘Zimmerman Blues’ as he sang, “As sure as the stars turn above/All we ever asked for was love/And I think that we’ve all been used”. That, (also) perhaps, is folk song sincerity truth. And, in the footsteps of ‘Streets Of London’ profundity, countless guitar singing poets have persevered, and even today, bleed with that motto, “All we ever asked for was love”.
And that’s the gist of this album with deeply patient grooves that beg continuous spins to reveal its (to cite Ralph McTell again!), Easy charms. The first song, ‘Wish You Were Here’ (obviously not the Floyd tune!) is a lovely acoustic guitar with a saintly vocal urgent glance into a painted sunset of a memory. The tune bleeds with impressionistic colours and a really nice sympathetic electric guitar solo and slight organ halo. The not-so-pop-naked perfect passion of The Sutherland Brothers comes to mind. Also, the classic British folk sound of Allan Taylor, Peter Bond, or many other artists, circa the 1970’s, is a reference point. For sure: good folk music will always touch, like the acoustic music of Keith Christmas, Stories From The Human Zoo.
Then, ‘You Mean A lot To Me’ continues, this time with a piano pulse, steel guitar, and another plea that sings, in its own way, “All we ever asked for was love”. This is heartfelt passionate music that avoids quaint sentimentality. That’s a nice tightrope to walk. And Maz O’Connor adds gorgeous backing vocals. The same is true for ‘The Leaving’, with its lyric that collects all the words that were never written on a casual postcard, which hoped to say much more to a passionate friend. Sometimes, we all betray ourselves. This music has that sort of depth.
The pace quickens with ‘November Evenings’, with (an almost) Dire Straits electric guitar vibe. And there’s even more dart board direct sincerity – with a pretty nice pop bounce.
But the real jewel is the acoustic breath of several songs. ‘Morning Mist’ is a tune that still “asks for love’, but dives into a deep cavern of lost passion clouded in a dissonant (but still melodic) memory. Once again, Maz O’ Connor adds sublime (and ghostly) backing vocals. The song haunts any aging moment of human confessional contemplation. And ‘Tongue Tied’ burns a slow-burning votive candle that erupts like a gentle volcano. The tune is an old photo of a lost love found in the creases of a forgotten photo album, whose pictured smiles don’t understand (the great!) Michael Chapman’s brutal honesty about “Times Past & Times Passing”.
Another jewel is the more electric ‘Another Day At The Top’ that floats with leavened air, but is anchored in heavy introspection. It may be a stretch, but perhaps, the playing recalls (the great!) Wishbone Ash in one of the band’s more brilliant guitar emotive and ephemeral moments like ‘Lonely Island’ from their New England album.
Then, two songs add the odd wrinkle. ‘Dwell’ circles with swirling organ, stuttered percussion, chopped guitar, and a hopeful vocal. Then, and it’s a bit weird, ‘Island Soul’ has a Caribbean pulse, that simply adds a calypso beat to the continuous tale of contemplative love.
The final song, ‘June’, is another acoustic jewel that of course elevates and completes the album’s conceptual journey with the thought that, “It’s never too late to try it again”.
And it’s a nice thought to sing with the folksinger’s defiance and always certain wisdom about “stars turning”, “asking for love” and any bitter truth about “being used”. Despite all of that, Wish You Were Here spins with honest words, a pop-folk sensibility, and even after all these folk singing years, a really decent desire to find love in a very often, and sadly, unmelodic world.
Artist’s website: http://www.terryemm.co.uk/
‘Island Soul’ – official video: