Emish – Sparkle
The fourth studio album from Emish, 2014’s Sparkle, introduces drummer Andrew Hulle on percussion and serves up another dozen gems for the band to add to their folk music festival circuit set lists. Bobby and Jennifer Curreri, joined by multi-instrumentalist Christy Halligan-Brown, have come a long way since their first appearance in 2007 with the album This Light. The band predominantly focused on performing and composing arch-traditionalist material during their early days, but their efforts since have increasingly focused on how they might incorporate those traditional sounds in a much wider musical scope. It has resulted in a significant number of successful originals, imaginatively revamped covers, and stylish instrumentals. The twelve songs on Sparkle represent, by far, their most successful collection yet in a brief but memorable career that has seen them rightly assume a lofty position in the folk and traditional music genre while never confining themselves to that narrowly defined area.
The opener has an interesting pulse and creative interplay between Halligan’s fiddle and Jennifer Curreri’s flute playing.”Farnum” also benefits enormously from the understated rhythm section playing to make for a fine instrumental introduction. “Devil’s Soil” might have a low-fi instrumental quality, but it’s strictly a rock song using acoustic instruments and rumbles with every bit of the discreet menace we would normally associate with the rock genre. Bobby Curreri’s vocal is quite good, but the backing support he gets from Jennifer Curreri enhances things all the more. The brisk movement of the title song has a few points scattered through the track where the music stops dramatically before revving up again. This command of songwriting dynamics is something the band has a firm grasp on and one of those distinguishing elements that helps them stand out in a relatively crowded field.
“The Good Fight”, a stripped back and rousing number, maintains steady pressure on the listener from the outset that’s resolved in a number of low key, but highly memorable, ways. The same rock inclinations informing some of the other songs makes their presence felt on the instrumental “Anna Morrone” without ever seeming too ostentatious or gaudy. Their take on the folk music classic “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” is among the best such covers you’ll ever hear. They make the song their one, switching things in the arrangement up a bit, but it remains highly recognizable and respectful throughout. They bring their musical muscle to full bear on the track “Good Shepherd” with its stew of fiddle, mandolin, bass, guitar, and drums pumping behind an inspired Bobby Curreri vocal. The album’s final track is among its rockiest and most dramatic. “Front Seat” is a Bobby Curreri helmed tune vocally, with some key backing touches from Jennifer Curreri, and its shifting tempos and dynamics help make it stick out on an already fine album. Sparkle represents the summit of the band’s recorded achievements to this point and shows that they are continuing to grow with each new release rather than being content to rely upon a winning formula and rarely deviating from it.
9 out of 10 stars
MY SPACE: https://myspace.com/emishband