It would be very easy to just peg Linda Em as being a female Nick Cave, she has the same blends of musical tradition and outsider thinking, and whilst that makes for an easy musical hook to hang my reviewers hat on, it would only tell part of the story. Taking bluesy ballads and heart aching torch-songs, she draws a line from 50’s jazz divas to punk poetesses (you know the one) to modern blues nostalgists, but the real charm here is that there is so much authenticity on show that this feels less like a backward glance to a certain time and a certain style and more a long lost recording, one that was a bit more experimental, a bit further ahead of its time than its better known contemporaries.
Wild Fire, the first single from the EP, is a brilliant boy-girl vocal two hander, all hushed atmospherics and pent up energy, plaintive piano notes, beautifully restrained yet full of powerful intent when it wants to make a point and hit home. By contrast Two Hands is a thing of understated grace and a song that you could imagine the likes of Patsy Cline or Nina Simone having a hit with back in the day and Little Lightmaker wanders right out of the early Nashville book of standards that never was…but should have been.
White Horse takes us back into her own unique territory, a sound that you can’t quite put your finger on. Is it an old classic reworked? Is it a modern tribute? A collection of sounds which are separately familiar and identifiable but positioned in new ways to create something wholly original. Not many artists or bands can revisit and reinterpret the past this brilliantly whilst pushing their own musical agenda, Mazzy Star perhaps did it best, and that ability to unpick the strands of familiar musical patterns and weave them into something even more intoxicating is exactly what Linda Em excels at.