Ember Schrag
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Ember Schrag

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Folk


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"Ember Schrag: A Cruel, Cruel Woman"

Schrag's got fine taste in music; her rollicking takes on rootsy shuffles are blissfully entertaining, and her more introspective pieces never flag. Her voice is limited, but they work well enough with these songs. A fine rest stop.
www: http://www.emberschrag.com - Aiding & Abetting

"Ember Schrag A Cruel, Cruel Woman"

Ember Schrag is a new name to me, from out of the blue. A femme singer/songwriter, but not just another femme singer/songwriter. A Cruel, Cruel Woman is the Nebraskan's debut album.

Ember Schrag can be bagged as folk/country music, and she's presenting quite a tasteful platter. A Cruel, Cruel Woman is indeed a shiny and sparkling debut. Not a stunning, bull's eye type album, but a charming and very fine one it sure is. She's got a warm and smooth voice, without lacking a certain friction. Will Oldham, Gillian Welch, and Joanna Newsom are named among her influences. At first I was about to say: Imagine something like Lucinda Williams meets PJ Harvey. Then I thought it over and found it a bit silly. Or wrong. Or...? Anyway, Ember Schrag is an artist with the right credible attitude to stand on her own two legs. Nice melodies, good lyrics - most of the time.

Ember (vocals, guitar, glockenspiel), is backed by Günter Voelker (lead guitar, backing vox, drums, bass, washboard, mandolin, banjo), Rebecca McPherson (piano), and Annie Aspengren (cello), giving her songs the right sober and accurate instrumentation and backdrop. The album (10 songs) clocks in at less than 30 minutes, which is quite a fitting length. Song-wise, as well as minute-wise. Personal faves are: Opening "Cupid's Bloom", "Two Suns", plus the deliciously sad "Sad, Sad Song".

Ember Schrag describes her music as: "A desert prairie drive". A recommended trip. A Cruel, Cruel Woman isn't cruel at all, this is just a perfect mid-desert gas-food-lodging stop-over.

Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen - Luna Kafe

"Ember Schrag: A Cruel, Cruel Woman"

After eleven (!) self-released efforts, Ember Schrag’s latest album is coming at us through a record deal with Lone Prairie Records, a Nebraskan-faithful imprint that’s slowly building a roster to rival that of local champions Saddle Creek. At just 24 years old, Schrag has certainly been busy. Between writing songs, she’s a mum to an 18-month old daughter and keeps an open house that serves as meeting place, rehearsal room and concert venue for the steady flow of entertainers and music lovers who pop by the city of Lincoln. A singer-songwriter with a poetry degree might induce winces in certain circles, but A Cruel, Cruel Woman demands an open mind.

From the upbeat start of ‘Cupid’s Bloom’ to the nostalgic close of ‘Cruel Woman Blues’, this is an album that needs to be digested over the course of several listens. Schrag’s voice is smokey and evocative, engaging flawlessly with her mixed-genre confection of folksy lyrics and bluesy guitar work. Perhaps most appealing of all is ‘The Course Of Love’, a boldly sung, mandolin-drenched ballad built around the a gently lilting melody, Schrag’s alluring croon and some heartfelt, accessible lyrics, but the competition is strong. Against the odds, and probably inspired by them, Schrag has produced an album worthy of receiving wider attention.
Claire Robinson - Wears the Trousers

"Ember Schrag - A Cruel, Cruel Woman"

Ember Schrag is a woman with an acoustic guitar and a folkish bent who reminds me a lot of early Edith Frost, mostly for the brilliant simplicity of her uncluttered songs and the economy of her playing. There are other players -- Gunter Voelker (lead guitar, drums, bass, banjo, and various other instruments), Rebecca McPherson (piano), Annie Aspergren (cello), and Thad Miller (fiddle) round out the band -- but their restrained playing and the minimalist nature of the songs keeps the songs from sounding busy, and the subtle nature of the additional instrumentation means that more is revealed with each spin of the album, always a good thing. Her sound may be reminiscent of Edith Frost (and, according to the accompanying poop sheet, Nick Drake and Joanna Newsom), but some of her guitar phrasing -- especially on "Two Suns" and "Iowa" -- and her atypical lyrics make me think of Kristin Hersh as well. She has a far more conventionally melodic voice than Hersh, though, and a lyrical approach that's more poetic and whimsical than naked and highly confessional. All ten of the songs here are well-crafted and executed with just the right mix of technical facility and loose verve; there's no filler on this disc. It's quiet and unassuming, but the instrinsic appeal of such natural, unforced simplicity will grow with each repeated listen. And this is definitely an album worth playing again and again. This may not be the hot new thing or flavor of the moment, whatever that is, but a sound like this never goes out of style.
-RKF - The One True Dead Angel

"Review of House Show Featuring John Walker and Ember Schrag"

By Katie Lechler
For the Star City Blog

Perfect experiences must always include the blues somehow. I saw Lincoln blues legend John Walker on Saturday night, and it was a crystalline moment. Walker played at Ember Schrag's house as part of the Clawfoot House Series, accompanied on the washboard and the guitar by Günter Voelker; Schrag and Voelker opened, playing songs from their soon-to-be-released album A Cruel, Cruel Woman.

Schrag, Voelker, and Walker were an ideal musical grouping for the evening; they have a folksy, upbeat sound even as they are singing about mistakes, hard times, or lost love. Schrag's voice was evocative as she sang witty, self-referential lyrics like, "I left you for a lot of reasons; one of them was to write this song." Her songs often refer to biblical imagery such as Jacob's ladder, burnt offerings, prophets, and Philistines. One piece, "Jephthah's Daughter," tells the story of Jephtha's sacrifice rom the point of view of the daughter and her friends. Another of Schrag's songs, "Two Suns," describes being in love with two people at the same time. My favorite line came from this one: "I can pick a guitar but not like I can pick a man."

Walker, the evening's second act, is a former philosophy professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. He has been playing blues in Lincoln for 30 years. I was excited to ask him about the connection between the (not always separable) lives of academia and art. "Music is complementary to philosophy," he said. "Philosophy involves discipline, a love of language, and logical trains of thought. Music involves some of the same things, but it is more expressive, more emotional." He calls himself an existential pragmatist, and relates to the philosophers William James, Jean Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. "I like Kant, too, even though he was wrong about everything," he joked.

After chatting with Walker about music and philosophy, I enjoyed his first song, the conversational "Hesitation Blues." His amazing guitar playing and his expressive, sometimes gravelly, sometimes lyrical, voice combined well with Voelker's virtuoso rub-board and guitar solos. Everyone in the room was tapping their feet, nodding their head, and responding to particularly poignant lyrics with a "Yeah," or an "Uh-huh." I'm sure that somewhere, there's got to be a deep existential meaning behind his song, "Happy Like a Dog," inspired by the words of his granddaughter. However, it was more fun to just hum along as Walker sang, "I don't like bein' fat, but I like gettin' fat; I like walkin' round in my Panama hat. Look at me, baby, I'm happy like dog." And everyone joined in when Walker played "You are my Sunshine," in honor of Grace, the youngest person at the concert.

Later I talked to both Schrag and Walker about the Lincoln music scene and the reasons why they've both stayed here. "Lincoln has a great music scene for a small city," Walker said. "There are tons of acoustic venues ranging from coffee shops to bars to house shows." He likes the intimacy of house shows, the fact that the crowd is small enough and close enough to, as he said, "reach out and slap you." Schrag has a passion for the local music scene as well. When I asked her how the Clawfoot House Series started, she said, "I just thought about what I'd like to see in the Lincoln music scene. And then I tried to make it happen." Schrag is working on the Songwriter Power Ranger series in Lincoln as well, and also sponsors the Clawfoot Salon for female musicians at her house once a month. "I wanted to help create the supportive community that I was looking for," she said.

At Clawfoot House, surrounded by people smiling, humming, and chatting, letting the music wash over me, I could have closed my eyes and imagined myself in New Orleans, that great city of blues and jazz. But I kept my eyes open and stayed in Lincoln. I'm already in a great music city. - Star City Blog

"Ember Schrag - A Cruel, Cruel Woman (CD, Lone Prairie, Folky pop)"

The debut album from Ember Schrag. A Cruel, Cruel Woman features nice, smooth, organic folk/pop tunes that shed a spotlight on Schrag's inviting vocals. All ten tracks are originals...and Ember comes up with some real winners here. Her songs are smooth and mostly subdued. Unlike many modern artists who try way too hard to sound unique or different, Schrag seems content to just let the music flow from her veins. In a world full of throwaway artists, this young lady comes across sounding like the real thing. Cool inspired cuts include "Cupid's Bloom," "Dark Lion Lover," "Sad, Sad Song," and "Cruel Woman Blues." Comes packaged in a nice foldout cardboard sleeve and includes a lyric sheet. (Rating: 5 out of 6, i.e. Excellent, like spicy noodle.) - babysue

"Review: Ember Schrag, "A Cruel, Cruel Woman""

Let’s be honest— it’s easy automatically to file away many singer-songwriters into a big collective blob of boring guitar strums and lukewarm teardrops. Ember Schrag is a singer-songwriter, through and through, actually. Like many others in her genre, the Lincoln-bred songstress wields an acoustic guitar, employs ample harmonies and nurtures seemingly autobiographical storytelling.

Yet for all of her assumed associations with the oft-bland pack of girls-with-guitar, there’s something behind the smooth frankness of Schrag’s voice that makes you believe that there just might be something more to her Lone Prairie Records debut, “A Cruel, Cruel Woman.”

On the album, Schrag channels both angst and sensitivity into 10 well-crafted songs that sway from tunes about worn-out love and hardships to tenderly sung adult lullabies.

Thanks to a talented group of backing instrumentalists and an unaffected voice that reeks of hard-nosed Midwestern-ness, Schrag actually makes you want to listen to the stories she’s telling. It is, after all, her voice that pulls you to the album in the first place. It’s pure, open and, when she allows it, sweetly aggressive like on the goosebump-inducing “Nobody Can Tell.”

Like many young artists, the 24-year-old still has work to do if she wants to distinguish herself from the masses of folksters, but with an already-distinctive voice and writing style, it’s clear that this is only a preview of Schrag’s talents. Grade: B+

-Liz Stinson - Lincoln Journal Star

"Clawfoot is a salon, music venue - and a home"

When Ember Schrag first moved into the split-level duplex at 11th and F streets last fall, her first thought was, simply, “Something has to happen here.”

With its long, open living room, wood floors, clawfoot bathtub and Craftsman bookcases, the rental was the perfect spot to start the quaint little micro community she craved.

And, thus, Clawfoot House came to Lincoln. The house quickly became more than just a home. It’s also a hangout, a concert venue, an artist’s haven, a female singer-songwriter sanctuary.
Story Photo
Clawfoot House organizer and resident Ember Schrag plays guitar with the help of her daughter, Lillian, before dinner May 20. (Erin Duerr/Lincoln Journal Star)
Story Photo
Clawfoot House organizer and resident Ember Schrag plays guitar with the help of her daughter, Lillian, before dinner May 20. (Erin Duerr/Lincoln Journal Star)
Related Media
Audio Slideshow: Clawfoot House

Musician Ember Schrag talks about the unique living experiene at Clawfoot House. (Erin Duerr / JournalStar.com)...
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“Five grown-ups, a baby, three cats and a few significant others who hang around a lot,” Schrag said of Clawfoot’s usual roster. The baby, it could be argued, is the whole reason Clawfoot exists.

Schrag, a UNL grad, had been working on her music career for about six years and was planning to head to Portland and be a starving artist. But when she had a child, “I changed my mind about the starving part.”

She would stay in Lincoln with daughter Lillian, who’s now an amazingly cute and musically inclined 18-month-old. But she’d have to change a few things.

“For one,” she said, “it was harder for me to get out of the house after having Lillian.”

So she decided to bring everyone to her, converting the house to a mini-concert venue for homey, folksy, low-key music. She and her roommates invested in a good used sound system, which they bought from a group of jugglers moving to Arizona — “We got a good deal from those jugglers” — and they were off.

In the near-year since, Clawfoot’s house concerts have become a monthly event, a wee arena for those jonesin’ for a little bit of intimacy, musical or otherwise.

The Three Faces of Clawfoot House


Not salon in the hair ’n’ skin care sense. This salon has a less modern definition, a periodic gathering of people of social or intellectual distinction, a meet-up for the purpose of entertainment and education.

“It’s not as snobsville as it sounds,” says Schrag.

The Clawfoot salons are a meeting of musical minds in the Lincoln scene. At these salons, everyone’s a performer and everyone’s an audience member.

Unlike Clawfoot House concerts, which are all-inclusive, the salons are for women only — no guys allowed. Save one exception. (Hint: He wrote these words.)

Once a month, a dozen or so artists get together and make music. And it can be a weird sight, or, more accurately, a weird sound.

Accordions, guitars, cellos, drums, xylophones, all kind of doing their own thing, jamming out, improvising, occasionally melding together into a moment of gorgeous unity. The musicians observe each other, teach each other, give each other feedback. The musicians aren’t all musicians. A lot of them are just here to listen. Some are writing, knitting, drawing.

Rachael Wells, who lives here, bursts into the room and starts clacking with her tapdancing shoes, the only instrument she knows how to play.

“There’s nothing to prove here,” she says of the salons. “No one’s too critical.” There is, she said, a “soft touch” to any input.

“It’s just so nice to have such a belonging environment for making music,” says local cellist and regular salon-goer Lenna Pierce, “to bring your new songs here and try them out before revealing them to the rest of the world.”

There wasn’t anything like this before Clawfoot, something “so openly feministy.”

The salon’s no-dudes-allowed rule stems from the members’ feeling that “a lot of the Lincoln music scene is really male-dominated,” says Pierce. “I’ve worked with male bandmates before, but they like women to be back-up. They’re like, ‘You cellist, you can play some twiddly part in the song we already wrote.’”

Pierce gets to be front and center at the salon. Anyone who wants to be does.

Concert Venue

Three local artists who make up an experimental music outfit called Shelf Life are “playing” a bizarre set of instruments, some not instruments at all. The music is equally bizarre, a cacophony of eerie clicks, clacks, buzzes and tones that wouldn’t sound out of place on the movie soundtrack to a theological thriller set on a spaceship.

The guys are playing in the Clawfoot living room, surrounded by a mess of wires, knobs, amps, cables, pedals, levels and cases and about 30 audience members. Clawfoot House got a noise complaint called on them a few weeks back, so hostess Ember Schrag has closed all of the windows to her non-air conditioned house, making it inner-thigh-sweatingly hot in here, somehow giving the music a more sinister, trippy vibe.

The monthly Clawfoot House concerts aren’t usually this experimental (or boiling).

“The house concerts are just these really intimate shows,” says Schrag. “We try to make them a combination of fairly edgy music but also this kind of downhome thing. It’s not a punk show crazy thing. It’s just kind of homey.”


“Damn’s OK,” says Schrag. “The lord’s name in vain is OK. The S-word is only a nickel. Most words are a quarter. The mother-effer word is 50 cents. But ‘mo-fo’ is fine.”

At Clawfoot House, there’s a jar on top of the living room piano with the written message, “Don’t swear around the baby. Send her to college.”

The ears of the baby, Lillian, don’t encounter too many impurities. The jar serves as a pretty good deterrent, though some Clawfoot regulars are irreformable. They pay a couple bucks up front just in case.

Lillian’s home life is unconventional. She has a big extended family of musicians and artists, all of whom love her and would step in front of traffic for her.

“It’s cool with everybody being here,” says Schrag. “I can’t think of a better environment I’d like to have her in.”

At any given time, there’s something cool and exciting going on in the Clawfoot household.

“We don’t use the TV,” said Clawfoot tenant Rachael Wells. “I want to put a painting in front of it.”

No TV, but plenty of drawing, writing, knitting, crafting, creating. And music. Always music.

Schrag pulls out her guitar right before dinner time and sings some of her original songs. She has one of those voices that you pay attention to — warm, smokey, nostalgic. She’ll use that voice at bedtime to lull her daughter to sleep. In the meantime, Lillian’s smiling at her mom singing while a few housemates feed the baby her dinner.

“You know that ‘it takes a village thing’?” says Schrag. “We kind of made one for her.”

BY MICAH MERTES / Lincoln Journal Star
Sunday, Jun 14, 2009

Reach Micah Mertes at 473-7395 or mmertes@journalstar.com. - Lincoln Journal Star


LoFidelity Living 5
(Workerbee Compilation, December 2009)

A Cruel, Cruel Woman
(Lone Prairie, June 2009)

Two Suns EP (2008)



Ember Schrag writes literate, dreamlike songs that draw on stark prairie landscapes and fanciful revisions of obscure ancient tragedies. Ember lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she curates a vibrant house concert venue and arts community called Clawfoot House. She has shared stages with Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova), Lowry, The Bruces, Shelley Short, Mal Madrigal, Samuel Locke Ward, Bill Hoover, You & Yourn and The Chiara Quartet. After performing constantly around the Midwest for almost eight years, Ember released her debut album, A Cruel, Cruel Woman, in June of 2009 on Lone Prairie Records. She has a solo EP in the works, and her band appears (along with Jad Fair of Half Japanese) on the LoFidelity Living 5 compilation released by Workerbee in December 2009.

"She’s got one of those voices that you pay attention to - warm, smoky, nostalgic."
- Micah Mertes (Lincoln Journal Star)

"Ember Schrag is a woman with an acoustic guitar and a folkish bent who reminds me a lot of early Edith Frost, mostly for the brilliant simplicity of her uncluttered songs and the economy of her playing."
- the one true dead angel

"Unlike many modern artists who try way too hard to sound unique or different, Schrag seems content to just let the music flow from her veins. In a world full of throwaway artists, this young lady comes across sounding like the real thing."
- babysue

Band Members