Emma Hern’s EP American Gypsy possesses the ideal combination of captivating lyrics, moving soul, and creative melodies that our parents lament were lost decades ago. Her clear voice is an unapologetically powerful presence, easily capable of grit and range.

Immediately, with the first track “Only a Man,” the Berklee graduate shows off her gift. She uses vibrato, growls, and slides to accent key phrases, making them all the sweeter. She also unabashedly seduces with her lyrics (“Her lips are stained desire red when she flashes her smile”)—and has the confidence to pull it off.

Skilled instrumentation from a host of fellow Berklee graduates fills out American Gypsy, contributing well-placed solos, jazzy drumbeats, and subtle backup vocals. Evan Galante’s opening guitar riff in “Only a Man” exemplifies this; impeccably tasteful, it keeps looping through your head long after the song has finished.

If Hern can work on anything, it’s infusing the power of her faster songs into some of the slower ones. Following the powerful “Only a Man,” “Paralyzed” falls a little flat. Her soft and sweet voice, on this track, lacks the sass that initially captivates.

American Gypsy ends with “Timekeeper,” which made Hern a semi-finalist in last year’s International Songwriting Competition. The whirring and clicking of an old fashioned tape recorder introduces an achingly soulful lament from Hern. Sparse piano chords slowly layer in, giving the song texture. The piece adds a triple meter drumbeat, airy backup vocals, and gentle guitar. The overall effect is rocking, soothing, and just melancholy enough.

Catch Emma Hern at one of her upcoming summer shows. You’d be doing yourself a favor.

Album Review: Emma Hern - American Gypsy
Pros
  • Commanding vocals
  • Tasteful instrumentation
Cons
  • Slower songs lack power
8Moving Soul

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