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Emily Smith Traiveller’s Joy Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Avoids the grit that much of the modern folk scene opts for.

David Quantick 2011

These days, everyone’s a folkie. It seems that just as in the wake of punk rock, everyone suddenly had short hair and a skinny tie, so in this age of post-fiddly-diddly music, young men and women are growing beards, putting on peasant frocks and sticking brand new recording contracts in their ears. Authenticity is, as ever, the best calling card, and if you’ve medals for singing in the crofts or you can tune your own fiddle, you’re well ahead for a crack at the Radio Two Folk Awards.

Emily Smith certainly covers lots of bases. Authentically Scottish (those Mumford & Sons lads have a massive setback with their public schooling), she danced at ceilidhs and was BBC Radio Scotland's Young Traditional Music of the Year in 2002. She’s as folkie in her roots as the Sex Pistols were punk. And, from its quaintly-misspelled title-track to its Richard Thompson cover, her fifth album gives a strong impression of being in the new folkie/singer-songwriter tradition of Kate Rusby and Laura Marling.

In fact, Smith is a much more mainstream, albeit waif-like singer, than the rest. A fine musician and a talented interpretative singer, Smith avoids the grit that much of the modern scene opts for, and at times – like on the remarkably semolina-esque Dreams and Lullabies – her delivery veers more towards Karen Carpenter rather than, say, Eddi Reader. When small amounts of grit are delivered, as in a version of Thompson’s Waltzing’s for Dreamers, they are covered in a sweet and by no means disagreeable croon.

After a while, the record’s saccharine nature rather starts to overwhelm its musical excellence and Smith’s delightful warble reminds the listener not so much of Joni Mitchell, as some other reviews have claimed, but of that other popular and attractive singer of Celtic origin, Katherine Jenkins. A pretty and well-made record, then, but one perhaps better suited to lingering shots of lovely glens in a trailer for Coast rather than excitable modern listening.

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