Emily Smith,
A Day Like Today
(Foot Stompin', 2002)

There's a time in your life when you realize you're not going to accomplish everything you'd set out to do. I'm definitely at that point. Emily Smith, however, is not. There's a good chance that this relatively new face in traditional Scottish music will have many years to accomplish pretty much whatever she wants.

Winner of the 2002 Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician award, Smith's debut album, A Day Like Today, rings of a performer who's already fairly seasoned in the music she creates. The title track, which opens the album, is an original Smith composition, but she makes it sound as if it truly were a traditional number -- with one exception. As Smith herself says, "There are so many songs where the woman is left holding the baby ... but unlike the others this lady decides she doesn't need a man." It's a warning, in a way, I suppose. This album is made up of traditional songs and contemporary pieces that sound a lot older than they are. However, Smith isn't necessarily going to be "just another" traditional performer; she's out to make her mark.

"Fair Helen of Kirkconnel," the second song, is a beautiful traditional song -- strong and sad, featuring piano and fiddle against Smith's seemingly delicate timbre. There's almost an upbeat mood to the melody, but Smith manages to add just the right amount of wistfulness to maintain the original tone.

While Smith plays piano and accordion (on instrumental numbers, she switches over from piano to accordion), her voice is the obvious instrument of attraction. It's one of those voices that can sound both delicate and strong at the same time. There's a bit of vibrato that adds to its emotive pull, but it doesn't belie Smith's youth. She sings with the wisdom of experience on a melancholy "Green Grass Grows Bonny." Her arrangement of "Molly Lovely Molly" is sheer loveliness.

It's not a perfect album. She seems to struggle with the lyrics on "Rigs o' Barley." Fiddler Jamie McClennan's music makes her rush through them; sometimes it sounds as if she won't manage to complete each line in time. However, that said, it's a minor weakness, and she is still a young performer, no matter how experienced she may sound initially.

This CD demonstrates overall excellence, and it shows so much promise. If she can wring out the emotions in an a cappella "Time Wears Awa'" and charge a dramatic "The Cruel Mother" with pathos now, what might she accomplish in the future? Whatever it is, I want to hear it.

- Rambles
written by Ellen Rawson
published 31 January 2004

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