The 2008 sophomore release from New York State based Celtic folk rock act Emish, One More Round, bears some superficial resemblance to the band’s debut. There’s thirteen songs on the second album and a mix of originals, instrumentals, and traditional covers bearing an idiosyncratic stamp separating them from the realm of pure imitation or empty tribute. One More Round has an even greater individuality than the debut; Emish are far more willing to subvert the audience’s ideas about what certain covers included on the album will sound like and these efforts to own a piece of such songs as their own mark them as operating on a higher level than many of their peers. The band worked as a five piece during the recording of One More Round, but the music primarily centers on Bobby and Jennifer Curreri, accomplished instrumentalists and vocalists, and the unit’s third member Christy Halligan Brown. Drummer Tom Muro and bassist Mike Intranuovo make important contributions as well.
“One More Round” starts the album off and has a strong rolling quality from its opening minutes augmented by Tom Muro’s sturdy timekeeping and Halligan-Brown’s terse fiddle accompaniment. Bobby Curreri’s vocal has the same cawing attitude he brought to bear on the band’s debut, but it’s even more artful and refined here without ceding any of its rugged credibility. The uptempo pace is tempered some on the track “Sentinel”, but this is much more of a straight ahead rock track with some understated Celtic flair. The Curreris do an exemplary job co-handling the vocal chores for this one without listeners ever feeling like they are competing for the audience’s attention. Their songwriting has clearly taken a quantum leap forward based on the evidence provided by songs like “Ode to Morrissey”. The lyrics mix the personal and general in a compelling way and the arrangement has much of the same energy defining Emish’s approach. It isn’t rock by any definition, but it has a lot of that same attitude while still solidly aligning itself with the band’s Celtic influences.
Many of the band’s instrumentals, if you replaced Brown’s fiddle with an electric guitar, would be interchangeable with the genre. “Jenny’s Chickens” might have a rustic title, but the song’s dynamics are ripped straight from Writing Rock Songs 101 and it isn’t difficult to envision it in a much different light. The rugged lyrical point of view of “Guns and Pride” gets a little bit of a gentler twist from a busy and lyrical arrangement, but the most notable strength of this song is the narrative value that Bobby Currerei puts over with great conviction. “Haul Away Joe” is a much more humorous number than we customarily hear from Emish, but they sound quite at home with this smirking musical tale about the vagaries of love. The album concludes with their cover of the standard “Whiskey in the Jar” and they leave a distinctive touch on this outing with its circular, jaunty musical figures and irrepressible energy. Emish’s One More Round is a successful follow-up to their debut that moves the needle further into their own unique niche without ever sacrificing the traditional spirit infusing their work.
by William Elgin