The third album from Vicky Emerson, Wake Me When the Wind Dies Down, is a relaxed nine song effort pushing no envelopes, but successfully relying on country and blues music’s fundamentals with a rare stylishness. Emerson, likewise, proves herself to be a stylish lyricist with a literary facility never threatening to overwhelm the music. Her vocals tend to favor the higher ends of the scale, but she shows flexibility adapting to a wide variety of moods and musical tenors. On occasion, a surprising bluesy side to her voice emerges helping to lend a light air of grit and gravitas to an otherwise pensive, even introspective, effort. While Wake Me When the Wind Dies Down might successfully mine the country and blues vein, but goes further than that. This works just as well as pure singer/songwriter material that happens to deliver its message in stripped back fashion.
“Under My Skin” opens the album with unique, almost clipped swagger – the abbreviated guitar lines, nervous percussion and moody steel guitar create quite an overall mood. Emerson embodies well the fiery, uncomfortable message of the lyrics while still retaining a light playfulness that makes hearing the track genuine fun. “Long Gone” starts off with a flourish of drums, violin, and guitar before segueing into a sleek guitar and percussion driven backing track. One of the album’s abiding strengths lies with its vocal harmonies and “Long Gone” is, arguably, one of the best moments embodying this approach. The violin, or fiddle if you prefer, brings a great deal to virtually every album track and its playing here sounds a note of desperation in the song that nicely dovetails into its lyric. “Silhouette” is one of the album’s premier highlights slanting more strongly in a folk direction. The sturdy guitar work is augmented by tasteful mandolin and Emerson responds with one of her best vocals.
Vocal harmonies highlight the classic country weeper “Save All My Cryin’ (For Sunday Afternoons)”, a deliberately paced ballad with lyrical violin. Sprinkling a smattering of bluesy elements over Emerson’s mastery of traditional country clichés creates a pleasing mini-masterpiece of sorts that’s a model of the form. “Dance Me into the Night” has a stronger bluesy flair than most song, fiddle notwithstanding, and its darker hue notably contrasts with the familiar title and earlier tracks. The album’s second to last song “September Midnight” reflects a less cluttered approach than other songs. It’s a longer song than most, but has a lighter touch thanks to its minimalist atmosphere.
Vicky Emerson’s Wake Me When the Wind Dies Down is one of the finest examples of work in the Americana/alt-country genre today. Emerson possesses a sure-handed creative vision that keeps listeners comfortable throughout while delving into often bittersweet narratives about the vagaries of love. Some might say that this is her peak moment as an artist while others familiar with Emerson may hear this as a consolidation of her first two albums. However, its true merit lies in the fact that it is a work full of vital songwriting and first class musicianship for an age increasingly barren of both.