Em George hits you right in the feels with her new EP.
It’s a funny old thing, folk. People tend to find that metal and electronic have far too many subgenres, and, while that may be true, folk juts around a lot more. From the political mourning of Woody Guthrie to the psychedelic countryside folk of Incredible String Band, there’s a lot of trodden ground to plant your flagpole in.
So it takes a lot for new artists to supplant themselves in this diverse genre, and I think Em George may have just began to break ground. On her self-titled EP, the singer-songwriter certainly shows her prowess for the craft, while also showing a genuine care for the roots of the genre throughout, presenting us with something contemporary and traditional all at once.
The five-track release soars with emotionally-charged vocals and old-school trebly acoustics, which ring in-between lyrics that keep to classic folk subject matter, while also tarring it the brush of the ‘Millennial’ generation. “I met an old man. He said look at these hands they don’t work anymore,” George sings on her opening track Paper Hearts. It’s a statement that could have been written in the Dustbowls of California, but gains an extra reverence in an age that has a decrease in a necessity for manual labour – a cornerstone of the genre lyrically.
The second track on the EP, The Grind, takes another form, however, and is reminiscent of Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. The track here tells a tale of broken hearts and whisky bars, in the sensitive way rock missed out on, and can only truly be realized by a solitary figure preaching a slice of real life with their guitar. This is the rare occasion of a track being suited to the classic tear-in-your-beer dragged into the modern age.
But this also shows part of the self-titled release’s downfall. As good as George is at spinning a yarn, it’s difficult to make the connection between the music and the content of her soul. There isn’t the same pain in her voice as Tom Waits or Joni Mitchell. This doesn’t mean her vocals need 20 Marlboro and a bottle of Jameson’s, it comes down to the instrumentation with these tracks. George needs the backing that is there brought up in the mix, and then further flourished with mandolin, fiddle, harp – anything traditional and acoustic, à la Fleet Foxes.
This all comes down to preference, however, and it’s hard to disparage a release that keeps itself so stylistically succinct. George clearly knows what she’s doing, and in this case I suspect the problem comes down to the producers. If she could get into the studio with someone as invested as she is we could have something truly special on our hands. Until then, this EP is a lovely little step.