Before recording what would become the debut album for his semi-solo project, Chain, Red Shoes, and Stone, guitarist and vocalist Davis Vigneault immersed himself in six albums that encapsulated the tradition he wanted to expand upon. This collection of inspirations ranged from Sufjan Stevens’ confessional Seven Swans to Laura Marling’s stripped-down opus Once I Was an Eagle.

Like the albums that Vigneault hoped to emulate, his debut, Emma-Liz Sings the Blues, follows a strict “lay-it-bare” philosophy, stripping away any excess so that the songwriting can soar above the scarce instrumentation. Davis decided early on that he wanted nothing but his voice and his guitar, fully exposed, on this record: “I didn’t want to record anything that wouldn’t sound good if I played it alone, sitting at my kitchen table.”

Emma-Liz has the immediate intimacy of a 3 a.m. serenade on Vigneault’s kitchen floor, but his storytelling and haunting guitar work lift the listener from those mundane surroundings into the world of his characters. Vigneault took inspiration from books and fairy tales and even created short stories about the characters in his songs to further flesh them out. Following in the footsteps of the “literary lyricists” who inspired him, Vigneault set out to create characters with real personalities, desires, and insecurities that spur the listener to concoct their backstories.

Though Vigneault maintains the tradition of his genre on Emma-Liz, his ambition prevents him from sliding into the monotonous tide of folk singer-songwriters. He told us that he never wanted to be accused of writing a love song because “there’s a lot of heartache and happiness too between friends, between sisters, between mothers and their daughters—stuff musicians don’t write about as often.” Emma-Liz is a meditation on these underrepresented stories.

When asked the signature Sound of Boston question (describe your sound without using genre names), Vigneault stated that the music of Chain, Red Shoes, and Stone is “at once domestic, ambitious, and decidedly literary” but “in a way that is neither self-righteous nor overbearing.”

Emma-Liz Plays the Blues comes out on November 1, but you can listen to it with us, now.

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