Emish’s album Everlasting finds the New York five piece in fine fettle a decade after they appeared on the scene with their first studio album. The Curreris, Bobby and Jennifer, are still the inevitable center of the band’s musical efforts, but fiddle and mandolin virtuoso Christy Halligan Brown is a valuable musical contributor with a fine voice that comes into play at various points. The collection is largely devoted to well known Christmas standards, but Emish is thankfully seldom content with merely imitating familiar past versions. Instead, they often remake the songs in unexpected ways and their instinct for what to do prove unerring throughout the entirety of Everlasting. Their musical vision often incorporates forceful musical arrangements, but they’ve opted to pursue largely folk-roots inspired ends with this release and the Celtic influences come through quite vividly.
The sure-handed elegance of “What Child Is This” will strike enough of a familiar chord for longtime fans of seasonal music that it resonates, but it’ll impress as well with how much of their own character they bring to the performance. Bobby Curreri is the primary singer with this number, but the contributions from Jennifer Curreri are equally important for further coloring the song. Bobby Curreri’s performance on “Joy to the World” is equally convincing and pushes the song with just enough urgency without ever handling it in a heavy handed fashion. One of the briefer cuts on Everlasting is the band’s hushed invocation of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” unwinding in a relaxed manner thanks to the instrumental interplay between Jennifer Curreri’s flute and Christy Halligan Brown’s fiddle. Bobby Curreri’s guitar work makes critical contributions as well, but he takes on a more understated supporting role to the aforementioned players on this superb instrumental.
“Kings” is another beautifully constructed instrumental with the same refined musical chemistry on full display. Vocals return with the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and has some crackling acoustic guitar work that Jennifer Curreri’s voice provides an appropriately ethereal counterpoint for. This is one of the album’s more energetic tunes and a definite high point. “Silent Night” brings the band’s three vocalists together for another high point and they carry the bulk of the day with almost supernatural reverence for the source material. It’s a powerful musical statement in every way, despite the spartan instrumental accompaniment. The album’s longest track, “I Saw Three Ships”, clocks in at a little over five minutes long and has the smell of the sea woven into every bar of its arrangement. Christy Halligan Brown’s lyrical fiddle playing is the unquestionable highlight, but there’s nothing out of place with this track. They end the release with an easy going, joyous version of the stalwart “Jingle Bells” complete with children’s voices providing backing vocals. It’s a grand way to end one of the more upbeat musical experiences in recent memory and making music for the sheer joy of it has rarely sounded so good.