“Though my record may say it, no-one will play it’ ‘cos sad songs and waltzes aren’t selling this year“, sings Kevin Embleton in the refrain of the one cover version on his new, incredible album, ‘It Did Me Well’. And you wonder if Embleton might be resigned to the fact that few will hear this gem of an Americana album that’s out this week. It would be a crying shame if that were the case.
Yes, there’s a fair dowsing of sadness within ‘It Did Me Well’. We’re thrown straight into that theme in the opening title track. This is about leaving, being on the run, cancer and illness. Those themes are emphasised from a different perspective in ‘Leavin’ For Good’. “When I heard that you were leaving, with a one way pass, I tied myself to a railroad track”, sings Embleton in an anguished vocal style perfect for such sentiment. It doesn’t get any happier on one of my favourite tracks of the record ‘She’s Not There’ in which Embleton imagines a happy time; a time driving to meet parents with a girlfriend in his car. He looks towards the passenger seat and she’s no more than a memory.
But, to write this album off as pure sadness and loss overlooks the strand of redemption that sometimes surfaces. The guy who’s running away for much of ‘It Did Me Well’ does appear to find some kind of uneasy satisfaction at the end of the song as he returns home to the place he left; and in ‘Only Begun’, we’re given a snapshot of a new relationship in which running away and leaving is far from mind. “Take our time, we were meant to, meet my eyes, we’ll be fine”, sings Embleton in a break from the sad songs.
I asked Kevin Embleton for an entertaining story. He replied with this: – “So, we recorded the album live in our engineer’s living room. We all had jobs at the time, so we would get together around 6:30 pm to practice and then see if we could record a track all at once. We were often tired after a long day of work, and so it was pretty slow going. We took breaks often and tried to keep things light. We were back in the living room/studio trying to lay down a track one evening after a few of us had taken a smoke break on the porch. Everything was going smoothly, in fact I thought for sure this take was the one, until our studio drummer Matt Kurtz stopped playing. It took me a minute to figure out what was going on, but finally I heard him say “The porch is on fire!” He hopped out of his throne and went out to the porch. The bucket that we threw our cigarette butts in had caught on fire and was making quite the sight. We eventually put it out and got back to tracking, but somewhere in the archives of our pro-tools sessions is someone yelling “The porch is on fire!” So that’s a story about a time smoking cigarettes ruined a potentially beautiful track. We all had a good laugh about it though.”
Musically, this is an album that’s drenched in Americana roots. It does stray away from the slide guitar and Alt-Country pangs from time to time but never to such a degree that the flow of the album jars. The songwriting stands out and pushes this above records coming from a similar place. There’s a laidback lilt at play here that draws the listener in and then refuses to let you out. It’s beautiful, tender and well worth investigating.
Let’s see if we can get ‘sad songs’ (and some hints of happy ones) selling this year. You cen find out how to get Embleton’s new album “It Did Me Well” on their Official Website .