Mixed Biscuit Box of Indie Blues
In the good ol’ days of America the Prosperous – the Clinton-helmed dot-com 90s – the only girl with a guitar who really knew how to talk ‘revolution’ was Ani DiFranco. Nowadays, when socio-political wars are waged much louder and right on our front lawns, it is thrilling to watch musicians across every genre step up to the plate to sing about injustice. Emily Jane White is one of these newer voices. Her latest release, Ode to Sentience, is a subtle dissertation on oppression, nestled in a mixed biscuit box of indie blues.
Ms. White has been aptly compared to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, and her voice on all of Ode is pleasantly reminiscent of Chan’s work on Moon Pix – wispy but full, dark yet buoyant. Her lyrical work is well-crafted, with every heavy poetic turn deftly supported by melody. It’s tricky business – God, the devil, and high levels of verbal drama are all in play – but Ms. White spins a delicate and intoxicating web. What would be a clonking soap opera on another songstress, Emily makes as refined as tea with the Queen. But with pedal steel, cuz we’re in America, ya’ll.
Though the elements are all there – excellent musicianship, important message, thoughtful lyrics – Ode is often on the verge of too subtle. Tracks like “Silhouette” engage softly while listening, but don’t stick with you for long. Ms. White has created some beautifully melancholy music, but it feels very careful- as if she is confined by her own lullaby genre. Her most traditional song “The Cliff,” feels the strongest, perhaps due to it’s distinctive country sound or the presence of a real rhythm section. One wonders what a healthy dose of drums throughout might do for an artist that already has such a way with words.