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Tragic overtones aside, the smooth beauty of Emily Mure's music leaves a quietly happy echo, while Bob Bradshaw's 'American Echoes' shows a singer, songwriter, and bandleader in full command of his muse.

Music Reviews: Emily Mure – ‘Worth’ and Bob Bradshaw – ‘American Echoes’

emily mure worthEmily Mure – Worth

Though Emily Mure‘s third album Worth has some of the trappings of folk singer-songwriter preciousness – gentle acoustic rhythms, ukelele, and lots of cello (the genre’s “it” instrument) – it rises above stereotype, with songs of subtle directness and vocals of whispery intensity. Straightforward without resorting to cliché, the lyrics address commonplaces of love, friendships, and self-searching in uncommonly precise, plainspoken language that dances on the fringes of poetry.

There’s often a hint of tragedy in Mure’s voice that tinges even some of the positive moments, like the gently soaring chorus of “Come Clean” with its declaration that “I will be free of you.”

The sweetly plaintive frustrated-love song “Roommate’s Predicament” and the easy waltz “Almost Everything” have a country-western lilt that brings Kim Richey to mind. Rootsy strains mingle interestingly with punchy strings in the title track. The pure simplicity of the chord changes of “Cope and Thread” build to sparkling melodic climaxes, and the sad and lovely “Welfare Island” sounds like an old minor-key folk tune from across the sea.

“When we are young we take so much for granted,” sings the regretful narrator of “David.” “I still have your letters / Though I’ve managed to lose so much.” Many of the songs reside in this confessional mode, but Mure gently shapes the sentiments into artistic forms. The repeated line “I left you for fear that you’d leave me” becomes a mournful wail. But, tragic overtones aside, the smooth beauty of the music leaves a happier echo.

Worth comes out Sept. 22.

 

Bob Bradshaw – American Echoes

When William Butler Yeats wrote the poem “Among School Children,” I wonder if he imagined how deeply its closing line “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” would percolate into the wider culture. I do feel fairly safe in assuming he didn’t imagine it in a strip-club context. But that’s where Bob Bradshaw references the line in “Exotic Dancers Wanted,” the opening track of his thoughtful seventh album American Echoes.

The song sets an easygoing tone for this collection of deeply imagined folk-pop tunes, most charged with a deceptively hazy, lazy vibe that suggests the cloudy strains of the early ’70s. There’s a little psychedelia, a little California country-western, a little roots-rock (“Weight of the World”), a spadeful of New York City grit. But there’s also a European flavor in the way the melody sneaks in to “Meet Me,” one of the album’s stellar tracks. And the lyrics of the barroom ditty “A Bird Never Flew on Just One Wing” feel right at home sung by an Irish-born, Boston-based singer-songwriter, while the music evokes the Brit-folk of Richard Thompson.

Bradshaw sounds a bit like Elvis Costello on the silvery folk-waltz “Stella” and on the bluesy, old-timey “My Double and I,” the latter echoing Costello’s “Let ’em Dangle.” Hendrix-esque slide guitar and wry, minimalist lyrics help make “O Brother” a compact gem.

Comparisons are fun for a reviewer to come up with. But Bradshaw has developed a distinctive voice of his own over an extensive career. American Echoes shows a singer, songwriter, and bandleader in full command of his muse.

American Echoes comes out Oct. 20.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is a Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases.

Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires.

Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he’s a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.