A self-described accidental indie folk artist, the Dorset born singer-songwriter’s debut album (her background includes acoustic covers duo/trio Galeforce) started out as an eclectic cocktail of styles before gradually transforming into different shades of Americana. Produced by Boo Hewerdine, who also contributes alongside Chris Pepper, Melvin Duffy, Tanya Brittain, Robbie McIntosh and Dan Whitehouse, it opens with the jaunty swayalong ‘Let’s See What The Earth Has To Say’ which, featuring husband Peter Kirkbride on ukulele, is a lockdown-inspired number about how suddenly things can change, how we handle that and how we learn what we actually need.
Featuring Whitehouse on a variety of guitars and keyboards with Duffy on pedal steel, ‘She’ll Never Be Me’, a bittersweet titled co-write with Darden Smith and Alan Young, is a countrified post break-up jogger as, ten years after splitting from her performing partner, she can’t get over how easily she was replaced with someone else now standing in the spotlight and singing ‘Jolene’ and ‘Steve McQueen’.
Again featuring pedal steel, Hewerdine puts in his first appearance on ‘Showbiz’, a twangy, shuffling drum beat track that, again with a performing backdrop, is another break-up number, this time of a high profile celebrity couple with references to lawyers and selling their stories to the press as the wronged woman stalks his Instagram and attempts to put on a brave face or the cameras, no business, all show. Rueful romance reflections continue with ‘Tonight’s The Night’, Nik Newark on piano and Hewerdine on keys, as she sings of broken dreams, love letters that no longer make sense and scattered keepsake memories as she readies herself to finally move on.
Things take on a more upbeat note with the pedal steel streaked ‘Love Got The Better Of Me’, a duet with Whitehouse, who sings the first half, that has a meet cute, a proposal and of love enduring through the years, then, Brittain on accordion, it’s back to reflections of a another love rat relationship, the narrator returning “to the bed where I used to sleep” after some time away (“the kids will be there, will have grown an inch or so taller”), but, in contrast to the character in ‘Showbiz’, while having been on a diet (“so I hope I’ll look smaller”) resolves to not put on a show and “just go as I am”.
Co-written with three other female singer-songwriters and featuring accordion and Hewerdine on acoustic guitar, ‘Sorry’ is a lovely self-blame/self-forgiveness Brandi Carlisle-like country confessional about how – possibly due to mental issues – we can screw up a relationship while, accompanied by just Angus Lyon. ‘Meet You By The Bridge’ is a piano ballad about holding on and meeting halfway until it finally becomes apparent you have to let go, perhaps logically followed the steady beat of ‘Goodbye’, Hewerdine on backing vocals and McIntosh on electric guitar and mandolin, the lyrics suggesting a death rather than a split (“You left before had our last kiss…I never had the time/To tell you one last time/I really loved you”).
Pepper playing all instruments, it ends, echoing perhaps the album opener, with the piano-based dreamy passing of the years storysong call to ‘Enjoy Life While You Can’, to not be in too much of a hurry to grow up and end up wishing to be young again. With well over a decade’s experience of performing, Emma Gale has an assured, confident style, her voice expressive, her songwriting emotionally resonant, ensuring this a place as one of the year’s best debut.
Artist’s website: www.emmagale.com
‘Showbiz’ – official video: