The definition of grassroots is the most basic level of an activity or organization. Since 1981 Oh Boy Records has sought out grassroots sounds and given them a space to flourish. When applied to an individual, the definition can turn to ordinary people at the heart of an organization. Following suit with the label, Emily Scott Robinson fits this definition in every way possible with her latest American Siren.
The ten track follow up to Traveling Mercies (and first on Oh Boy) lends Robinson’s voice and art to subtle hints of modern intertwined with tradition. Emily Scott Robinson’s American Siren plays to an honest darkness many experience but few acknowledge while simultaneously offering hope, if only in understanding you’re not alone. It is illuminating songwriting bound to the soul to heartland vocals that mesmerize from the onset.
I like to think we’re at a place in the world where American Siren will be fully appreciated for the captivating strokes balanced among the seemingly simple gestures, but part of me thinks many would gloss over it because it doesn’t have some whiskey-soaked male vocals. The prowess of songwriting alone, evident in “Old Gods,” “Let ‘em Burn,” and virtually every other track, is a testament to how and why this is a record well worth your hard-earned dollar.
Never struggling to be exactly what it is, Emily Scott Robinson’s vision succeeds on all levels. Even as the record pivots to the b-side and takes a turn for that “typical Nashville” sound in “Cheap Seats,” a sound feeling out of place and has me glossing over the honkytonk pace and composition, it still doesn’t lose me. Not to any detriment “Cheap Seats” but to the strength and collective of the rest of the record. The subtle nods, such as the outro in “Hometown Hero” or “Every Day In Faith,” stretch the record beyond any singular strength and finds warmth in the whole. American Siren calls to slow things down and reflect. It does so masterfully.
Grassroots in all aspects, American Siren gently grabs hold of the heart strings and tugs in such a way you can’t help but feel the journey of each word, strum, and story. The roots Americana of American Siren offers a sense of comfort in the fact artists such as Emily Scott Robinson still exist in a world of fevered pace to anchor us to the art of storytelling and songwriting. Many, like me, will sing the praises of this record, but as you’ll find out October 29, 2021, the singing here should be left to Emily Scott Robinson.