Emily Wells – Mama

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Let’s give a big warm welcome to Emily Wells who has released her first UK album, ‘Mama’. Why should we give her such enthused greetings? Well, maybe because she brings something wonderfully eccentric to our music scene, which we, as music lovers, must celebrate.

Although this is her UK debut, she’s been kicking around for a while and her last release ‘The Symphonies: Dreams Memories & Parties’ was well received in 2008.  Wells is a one-woman Texas music machine, having been classically trained on violin since she was four and utilising a number of other instruments including glockenspiel, toy piano, drums and beat machines. ‘Mama’ is a cohesive collaboration of genres, covering classical, folk and hip hop in one sweep as if it were as easy as breathing to her. Despite this versatile and complex mix, the album is in no way isolating to its audience. On the contrary, It’s entirely accessible, and addictive at that.

If this sounds far too pretentious for your tastes, she still manages to keep a sense of fun and whimsy throughout, especially with ‘Dirty Sneakers and Underwear’ as she almost raps “joy, joy we got a lot, best friends in a parking lot”. It’s baffling how completely normal she has made the merging of hip-hop and folk, like they should have always been together.  It’s the same with ‘Mama’s Gonna Give You Love’ with the deep drums and bass at its core, and Wells’ words flowing through it in a half sing/half rap.

She sure knows how to construct a song, building it brick by brick , layering it thick with harmonies. ‘The Passenger’ and ‘Johnny Cash’s Mama’s House’ being prime examples of those harmonies, adding the deep and husky voice to the equally light and angelic one, with a backdrop of drums and glockenspiel and her compelling violin playing, coming at you from all angles. And if you’re looking for some of that classical violin training too then look no further than ‘Fire Song’ to give you goosebumps. It sounds as if she’s put love and attention into every single aspect of the sound, creating songs that are rich and robust.

The haunting echo of ‘Darlin’ is what concludes this ingenious album.  The end of the song is her twist of the classic folk ballad ‘Oh My Darling, Clementine’. This is just what Emily Wells does best, taking something timelessly classic and showing us her exquisitely modern interpretation of it. This final song brings forth the driving feature throughout ‘Mama’, which is its ability to blur the lines of genre in a perfectly balanced and engaging way. This album is modern and moreish and complex, and other complimentary adjectives.

Sylvie Metcalfe

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