Emily Frembgen – It’s Me Or the Dog
With a sound somewhat vulnerable & folky in an early Joni Mitchell tradition especially on “Flower/Weed,” Emily’s voice is butterfly wing fragile as she weaves through the gentle lyrics of her lovely tune. Subject-wise however, the song is rooted more in a Melanie Safka tradition though Emily’s voice isn’t as raspy & playful.
The Brooklyn-born Emily Frembgen provides personal songs that aren’t flimsy, feathered with cliches, or woven together with angst. Her songs have clarity, aren’t challenging, but she makes up for it with her carefully constructed tales. Her image on the front cover is alt-country in nature but her showcase is more Lucinda Williams. Her life hasn’t hit the skids, hasn’t spent time sleeping in alleys or on vacant building fire escapes.
Yet, Emily has been able to preserve her storylines concisely, not dramatically. The 9-cut CD doesn’t labor over any underbellies like Dory Previn, spare instrumentation soul, evocative images ala Laura Nyro, or any high-brow commercialism like Carole King, or controversy like Janis Ian.
At times her voice, expressive as it is, is childlike. Not like the “are you kidding, me?” image on her CD cover (which happens to be a good cover). Her acoustic guitar is picked with clarity & emphasizes sincerity. Her voice isn’t designed for the grittier aspects of life. If she sang with more depth in her lyrics she’d be a female Nick Drake. She comes close on “Changes.” Despite the drawbacks, Emily has an articulate voice, & good instincts.
It’s Me Or the Dog (Drops Sept 24–Independent) is a 9-cut slice of a well-made pie. Produced by Hugh Pool in Brooklyn. The musicians: Keith Robinson (drums), Charles Dechant (bass) & Brian Mitchell (keyboards). Emily on guitar with added instruments not fully credited include harmonica on “Sad Affair,” & the upbeat danceable “Hometown.”
Rockier is “Silver Lining,” with a country twist. Would’ve sounded more precise if Emily had a Lucinda Williams tone. Nonetheless, the song, in a higher register is sung well. It may be that her voice comes off too young for such mature songs & it’s off-putting. This doesn’t deter the quality of the material. The songs were written in a 60s pop-country vein. Mindful of voices like Sandy Posey (“Single Girl”), Diane Renay (“Navy Blue”) & Skeeter Davis (“End of the World”) – all classics.
With “Turn Around,” & “New Feelin’” Emily’s voice is mature. Warm, middle-of-the-road in a smoky saloon setting. Each well-crafted. This isn’t Joni Mitchell or pop-country 60s. This is Emily Frembgen.
Nothing disappointing. Emily is as exciting as when I first heard New Zealand’s young Jenny Mitchell (“Wildfires” “The Old Oak”).
CD cover + color image courtesy Adrian Buckmaster.
The 30-minute CD: available @ https://www.emilyfrembgen.com/