Episode #27 – May 21, 2014

ember2This week’s show features a pair of cuts from disarmingly intense nomadic songstress Ember Schrag, as well as music from Decorah’s Norwegian-American folk dance royalty The Foot-Notes, Britpop-influenced Wisconsin rockers Neon, McGregor Iowa’s Native American-inspired folk collective Big Blue Sky, and disbanded MPLS alt-rock vets X Ray Hip.

I had the pleasure to make Ember Schrag’s acquaintance and get familiar with her music during my stint as GM of KPVL in Decorah, when she was briefly living there in-between a move from her native Nebraska to her current location in New York. I was struck most by both her sparse, yet refined sound and her absolutely angelic, breathy, and lilting singing voice.

The avant-garde sounds, moody textures, and unique arrangements found on The Sewing Room give her otherwise sparse and simple folk / pop sound an enormous amount of depth and weight. It’s clear that Schrag spared no expense on The Sewing Room‘s production and was in fact assisted in bringing its engaging, yet prudent sound to life by a plethora of veteran East Coast musicians. As I’ve stated in other reviews, this polish pays off big.

Schrag’s singing voice, augmented by thematic and literate lyrics, is what really grabs one’s attention though. Plaintive and sweet while also feeling complicated, Schrag’s soft and judiciously accentuated vocals evoke a range of feelings; from earnestness to thrill-seeking, pensiveness to wonder. With The Sewing Room, Schrag has established an intriguing and compelling sound she can continue to explore for years to come.

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Ember Schrag
“Sutherland”
The Sewing Room
Single Girl Married Girl / Edible Onion
2012
3:40

Ember Schrag
“April Night”
The Sewing Room
Single Girl Married Girl / Edible Onion
2012
1:42

The Foot-Notes
“Emmigrant Waltz”
Iowa State Fare: Music From the Heartland
Smithsonian Folkways
1996
3:36

Neon
“Next Year”
If It Was
Independent
2010
6 min

Big Blue Sky
“Universal Mother”
Driftless Groove
Independent
2009
5 min

X Ray Hip
“Taste Test”
New American Lady
SMA Records
2007
4:18

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