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Having celebrated a decade as one of Scottish music’s most distinctively sublime voices, Emily Smith begins a fresh chapter in her illustrious, award-winning, TV-appearing career.
For her fifth solo album Echoes, Emily returns to her first love of traditional song. Her gift for finding a personal connection in these passed-down, anon-penned words is still at the heart of her craft. But this is a bold new phase in Emily’s music and with it comes what she describes as “a new Scottish sound”.
Recorded over the space of a year (interrupted by the arrival of a small person) Echoes expands the core group of musicians with whom she’s previously played by adding a guestlist of true greats.
Joining multi-instrumentalists Jamie McClennan and Matheu Watson, bassist Ross Hamilton and percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir are none other than Jerry Douglas, Aoife O'Donovan, Kris Drever, Tim Edey, Natalie Haas and Rory Butler. Together they’ve created an album with one foot planted firmly in Emily’s home of Dumfries and Galloway and the other in the unspoiled heartland of Nashville. If albums can have feet, that is.
Echoes is unshakeably Scottish but with farther, wider horizons. From remembered ballads like the murdery Twa Sisters and the mythical King Orfeo to contemporary but no less timeless songs such as Bill Caddick’s gorgeous John O’Dreams and Darrell Scott’s The Open Door, Emily’s voice eases tired ears and lifts knackered souls with its simple beauty.
Time has passed ridiculously fast since Emily was named BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year back in 2002. The accolades continued as she won the USA Songwriting Competition in 2005, Scots Singer of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2008, and she received two nominations in the 2012 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
In that time she’s toured the world, thrilling audiences from Cambridge Folk Festival all the way down to the National Folk Festival in Australia, via Europe, Russia, Canada and New Zealand.
Her face has been all over the telly thanks to BBC Four’s Transatlantic Sessions, BBC One’s Songs of Praise, Scotland’s Hogmanay Live, BBC Ulster’s Santer and an exclusive performance for Sky Arts Channel. In 2013 Emily toured as part of the Transatlantic Sessions extended family, singing with the likes of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eric Bibb and Teddy Thompson - adding to an impressive list of onstage collaborators which also includes Richard Thompson, Eddi Reader and Beth Neilson Chapman. Her albums A Day Like Today, A Different Life, Too Long Away, Traiveller's Joy and 2009’s sparkling take on lesser known Robert Burns compositions Adoon Winding Nith (released as a duo with husband Jamie McClennan) established Emily as both an adroit interpreter of old songs and a dazzlingly accomplished crafter of original material. In 2013 Emily released her best-of collection Ten Years (coming up with titles is harder than it looks) marking a journey that’s already seen her described by The Guardian as Scotland’s “most impressive young songwriter”. Blimey.