From its wonderful title, understated cover, tight focus, and great songs, Vicky Emerson’s third album Wake Me When The Wind Dies Down is an all-encompassing musical experience. Forget genre considerations and labels. These are simply great songs. Of course, some are much better than others, but a few listens to this will convince you that Emerson entered the studio with a largely finished material and never needed to worry about slack points. There is no filler. When the songs aren’t fully realized, it isn’t hard to hear them falling short by only a hair. Otherwise, this release will impress everyone as a fine reflection of Americana music delivered by a true artist rather than some imitator.
Her influences are obvious. Emmylou Harris and Roseanne Cash alike shadow the opener “Under My Skin”, particularly the latter, but Emerson is never in abject deference to their presence. Instead, it is instructive. The first song is very much a Vicky Emerson creation and there’s many moments, especially near the end when she begins whistling, that sound like spontaneous reactions rising from some reservoir of emotion deep within. “Long Gone” is a much more imaginative, rather than personal, track and augmented by rich accompaniment making use of many instruments. Her first hard turn into folk music, “Silhouette”, recalls a far more distant time in our history musically. There’s a timelessness in Matt Patrick’s guitar figure that will undoubtedly entrance many listeners, but rather than indulging us with some riff on traditional folk lyrics, Emerson offers up an apparently personal text about full of struggle and emotional complications.
“Save All My Cryin’ (For Sunday Afternoons)” lifts much of its imagery straight out of traditional country ballads, but Emerson twists listeners expectations in an entertaining way with some unexpected brushes of light humor and her customary personal touch. “Lyndale” takes no such minor indulgences with humor and, instead, seemingly brings us once again into Emerson’s mental life. This is probably one of the album’s most affecting songs. The straight-forward but remarkably eloquent guitar from Matt Patrick provides a perfect and unadorned counterpoint to Emerson’s brave self-reflection. Her vocal is a contender for one of the album’s best moments. “Dance Me Into the Night” brings light pop elements into her Americana approach, namely borrowing its style and potential for subtlety, and the result is one of the album’s more dynamic and atmospheric pieces. Emerson inhabits the lyric like a ghost, wafting over each line with careful deliberation. It’s a sharp contrast between this song and the album’s final entry, “Follow the Moon”. Emerson abandons the melancholy and, instead, commands a confident tune verging on bluegrass with wonder and joy in her voice.
It’s a highly appropriate way to end the album up. Wake Me When the Wind Dies Down occupies the moodier ends of the musical spectrum, but this is a songwriter who never surrenders for long to despair. Vicky Emerson’s third album is arguably her best yet and the well-rounded sensibilities shaping its quality haven’t yet hit their peak expression.
9 out of 10 stars.