Steven Emerson – Song of Love (2012)

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With Song of Love, Berkeley-based singer-songwriter Steven Emerson’s long-awaited second solo release, you hear the somber quietude of Nick Drake, the acoustic alchemy of Iron and Wine, the soulful accumen of Van Morrison and just a touch of the goofball humor of Andrew Bird.

Best known for his work in the 1980s with the post-punk band True West (they opened for R.E.M. on the Fables of the Reconstruction tour), Emerson issued a well-received jazz-pop project in 2000 — but has spent the following decade raising his kids and stockpiling songs.

That measured approach to his career gives Emerson both the insight to create with a writerly specificity, but also that rare opportunity in music today to truly be choosy. There is the sense, through Song of Love, that each song was carefully crafted, then just as carefully selected.

He’s like a friend who doesn’t say much, but when he does, the words completely resonate.

On the ringing, sweetly romantic “Paper Moon,” Emerson is moved to tears of joy by the small, good things that animate a relationship. “No End” has a more insistent rhythm, and a quieter, more nakedly honest portrayal of the vulnerabilities associated with love to match.

A charming, lovingly confidential lullaby, “Dream of the Fireflies” builds into something so blissfully joyous that it could lull even in most hard-eyed, career-burdened adult into a peaceful doze. Emerson’s title track, full of “sweet silences and soft utterances,” undulates with a warm sensuality.

Even when “The Sun Will Rise” brings the threat of dark clouds, if only for just a moment, Emerson remains this still, reassuring voice — this gentle reminder of love’s permanence. Even after the storm inevitably passes, you never want to leave the confines of this album’s comfy embrace.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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