About Emma Scarr
"Emma Scarr is a singer-songwriter from Leytonstone, East London, writing folk music with an Americana flavour.
Americana from Leytonstone?..
We’re not sure how that works either!
Emma has been active on the live London scene for approaching two decades. A proficient player of the guitar, fiddle and banjo, in recent years she has concentrated on song craft.
Emma’s song-writing is influenced by the ‘Alt-Country’ trail-blazers, Steve Earle, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Also by more recent Americana artists like Mary Gauthier and Gillian Welch. Closer to home, writers such as Steve Knightly of Show of Hands have inspired her, as well as all the music and players she has encountered in pubs and folk clubs in her musical journey of the past 20 years.
Emma’s debut album, “Angel Way” features songs drawn from a live repertoire developed over the last five years. Character and place driven, they are songs grounded in first-hand experience and observation of the banalities and triumphs of everyday life.
The understated narratives of her songs, forgiving and non-judgemental, have a sense of resignation but remain ultimately undefeated.
Beneath the measured surface is where the raw emotions bubble-
the real texture is to be found in the heart-broken shadows of this collection of songs."
Alex Ogg, Mojo-award-winning author of
"No More Heroes"
"The Hip-Hop Years"
Folk and Roots
Angel as in Islington… This is the debut album from Emma, an East-London-based singer/songwriter who for the past ten years has played fiddle with The Northern Celts. But rather than being a Celtic-style musical venture, Angel Way is very much an exercise in urban-folk, albeit with a strong Americana flavour that betrays Emma's influences (to my ears especially Mary Gauthier and Gillian Welch).
Her songs have an unassumingly raw and direct character that derives as much from her plain-spoken writing as from the at times harsh and unforgiving local environment in which her stories and observations are set. Given that directness, however, it may seem curious that in Emma's songs, emotion is not always on display in the shop window, but harder to locate and fish out, being altogether more subtly incorporated within her musical settings and delivery. Even so, her world always finds room for affection, as portrayed in the charmingly unsentimental domesticity of Little Hand and the backporch banjo musings of My Second Love.
Emma's singing voice is spontaneously communicative, upfront and insistent in tone, on occasions slightly strident even, but also possessing a touch of almost-sweetness that can surprise. This combination actually suits the no-nonsense perceptiveness of Emma's writing, while the entirely Gauthier-like uncompromising honesty in depicting commonplace, banal happenings and feelings with keen and thoughtful insight (and a not exactly unexpected element of self-pity) surfaces most obviously on The Gap and It Ain't Good For Me (the latter complete with scratchy matchbox-percussion obligato just to ram the message home!).
There's a kinda rough, early-Dylanesque aura to Devon and Mary's Going Nowhere, while Neasden To Nashville neatly draws together the two strongly place-driven elements in Emma's musical narratives. The myriad of topographical references in Going Home sure has us pondering the eternal enigma of why nobody ever gets off at Stepney Green…!
The ostensible emptiness of her characters' lives is strangely aptly mirrored in the unadorned, dusty Americana-style musical backdrops, open-toned yet quite claustrophobic, where for much of the time Emma's lone acoustic guitar is gently embellished with only Shuggie Fisher's bell-like mandolin and some overdubbed vocal harmonies; at times, Emma also contributes some sparing fiddle and banjo to the mix - and to good effect.
I like this one a lot, and hope to hear more of Emma.