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Saturday, 20th April 2019
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Emma and the Professor - Old Black Crow

Old Black CrowIf one is seeking quiet and contemplative music, or soothing sounds after a poxy day at work, then Old Black Crow,  the current release from Emma and the Professor, may not be the appropriate choice.  On the other hand, if you’re smeared with woad and about to go into battle armed with just sword and spear then pop the cd into your Walkman.

While Old Black Crow is emphatically roots material, Emma Heath’s vocals wouldn’t be out of place in a rock or even a soul environment. With some mean rhythm guitar and the intense patterns from Mark Davies’s bodhran this recording demands a certain physicality. Feel free to stomp on the carpet, bang the arms of your chair or head butt the steering wheel.  An advisory:  Her Majesty’s constabulary can get a bit sniffy about the latter action, so wait until your vehicle is stationary.

The CD comes handsomely packaged in a jewel case with booklet insert which amongst other things lists an impressive line up of supporting musicians – Benji Kirkpatrick, Marion Fleetwood,  Ben Walsh, Jack Rowe and Tony Skeggs, who doubles up on production duties and does a solid job. The sound is finely balanced, thick enough when necessary, but never to an extent that it draws attention away from the competing cadences that define this duo.

The title track is the first of three that blow the cobwebs away.  It’s a riffy affair reminiscent of the deep south, both in sound and lyrical content. Just when you need a break along comes the (probably too) much covered She Moves Through the Fair. The version here is less melodic than others you might hear but the ephemerality essential to the song is retained and the pair succeed in putting their own stamp on it.

The stand out Kisses Sweeter than Wine, has also been performed in various ways. Here, it’s joyous,  rumbustious and probably other words that end in “ous.”  After listening you’ll understand how Wile E. Coyote feels after being ground into dust by The Road Runner.

Yet for all the high octane stuff, it’s a quieter track that stays with this listener. The self penned Servant Slave is a mysterious,  hypnotic piece that describes leaving a relationship that was never equal,  told from the point of the junior partner.

Old Black Crow is a vibrant, enjoyable, confidently delivered album.  While Emma and The Professor may be best known for bringing a high voltage shock to the system, the more thoughtful parts of this release show that they’re far from being a one trick pony.

North West Folk takes no responsibility for any damage to furniture or floor coverings that may result from reading this review. Attempts are being made to source some fold away spears. They’ll be in the store soon, hopefully.

- Les Pilling


Emma and the Professor

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