Band – Hello Emerson
Album / Label – Above The Floorboards / Unsigned
Rating – 4/5

It’s always nice to find a diamond in the rough.

Sometimes you have to do a little digging, but in the end you’re left with a beautiful piece of artwork. The best music will paint the most beautiful pictures in your mind and in your heart. And, Sam Emerson Bodary is just the artist to do so.

Hello Emerson is the brainchild of Bodary and carries his namesake. He wrote all of the songs, plays the majority of guitars and is the main singer. The band first played together in 2015 on his 21st birthday, and they will be playing a release show for their first LP “Above the Floorboards” on August 25th at the Rumba Cafe.

I had the privilege of listening to the album beforehand, and I’m here to tell you that it is absolutely one of those gems.

The opening track is a short string piece titled Hello, which immediately pulls you into the record. It may only be a minute long, but it’s the perfect table-setter for what is about to come. The three main artists performing here are Stephen Forster on cello, Tristan L’Heureux on viola and Kristen Peters on violin.

Bridge is the next track, and it just so happens to be my favorite. The opening line immediately reels you in, “I’m building a bridge to the other side of this body I’m in. Made with black and tan bricks, held together with glorified spit.” The song is driven by Bodary’s vocals, and has a lovely mix of Jack Keating Doran’s piano and Daniel Lawrence Seibert’s soft drums that pick up midway through. It touches on the internal duality of a person trying to figure out love in the madness within themselves. It’s a song that you have to listen to twice just to make sure you pick up on every little bit of lyrical wizardry that Bodary weaves into it.

The following number, Straw features some lovely guitar-picking in the opening moments. Once again, you’re almost immediately plunged into the depths of Bodary’s mind, with lyrics following a story of a young boy growing up in a wild world. The song keeps a much faster tempo than anything else on the record, but still manages to convey all of Bodary’s emotions.

We slow back down with Seagulls, which features a mix of piano, guitar and Corbin Pratt’s lovely pedal steel. The vocal melody of Bodary and Erin Mason work to pull the mood of the song along with the instruments. It features some interesting noises; clicking and tapping in the background, which add to the lyrical intrigue painted by Bodary. It’s a bizarre song in a sea of intrigue. But, if you’re of an open mind, it’ll definitely get you thinking.

Daniel Seibert, Sam Bodary and Jack Doran of Hello Emerson (Credit: Hello Emerson)

The lovely acoustic opening of Travel starts you down another story-telling road, as a tale of a lover who is always far away. It’s exceptionally depressing, but not in a bad way. It’s the kind of sadness that makes you reflect about life, and puts you in the right mood for Uncle, another slower ballad with a mix of brilliant lyrical work.

“The late night highway’s molting like a senile old snake hissing lane-change lullabies to me then shaking me awake”. You essentially have to stop what you’re doing and just focus 100 percent on the music and words, otherwise you’re going to miss something brilliant. Pratt’s pedal steel shines the brightest here.

Seeing as how I was halfway through the album, I honestly had to stop and come back to it after that track. Flamenco opens with a brilliant bit of guitar picking by Bodary and (yet again) another piece of brilliant wordsmanship. “If I lay myself to sleep, will life catch up to me?” The song seems to border on a mix of life, death, and uncertainty. It’s so simple, yet so dark, deep and brooding. Take a deep breath and inhale the feelings that are being thrown at you.  It would seem that this song might be Bodary’s baby, as it only features he and the light alto sax of Jon Weisbrot.

Ohio bends the line between folk and country, telling a tale that all of us Ohioan’s can relate. Is the song about running away, or coming home? The writer isn’t overtly clear, but for me it was the most fun song of the bunch. Doran’s piano work bounces around we get an intimate introduction to Kyle Kerley’s arrangement of jazzy horns. I’ve essentially given up on naming each fantastic musician on each track, as Bodary has informed me that there are 15 different musicians contributing throughout the album.

Every song on the record has a tinge of feeling that drags you along, while simultaneously building your anticipation for the next. Lake is equal parts simplicity and seriousness, with Pratt’s pedal steel getting a little background love and featuring another heavy dose of horns. It seems as though Hello Emerson have found a way to mix together folksy elements that you might not expect in a way that actually comes out sounding quite good.

The last song on our voyage is Won’t Give In, which is a quick little ditty about love (or perhaps avoiding love).  It sounds like a one take demo recorded in a garage, which works with the silly little love lyrics and seamless harmonies of Bodary and Mason. It’s nice to hear Bodary laugh near the end, and as a song it brings a healthy dose of finality to the record.

The entire record is fantastic, and I’d challenge anyone listening to it to listen twice before passing any judgment. It may not seem practical, and at times it might be a little too heavy for your soul, but I guarantee you’ll be better off once you’ve heard all 10 of these tracks in succession.

It is as if Bodary stripped off the pieces of his soul and glued them back together in a beautiful harmonious tapestry. The wordplay is phenomenal, and though the music may tend to bounce around at times, it all works together in tandem to create one of the better local records I’ve heard this year.

The release show will be Friday, August 25th at the Rumba Cafe, with support from Sam Craighead and Ruth Awad. Bodary informed me that he will be bringing a 13 piece band, which should be a truly unique experience at an already intimate setting. Proceeds of the show are going to Community Refugee and Immigration Services.

Tracklist

  1. Hello
  2. Bridge
  3. Straw
  4. Seagulls
  5. Travel
  6. Uncle
  7. Flamenco
  8. Ohio
  9. Lake
  10. Won’t Give In

Hello Emerson – Uncle