Emily Smith
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Emily Smith

Band Folk Celtic


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"Album Review - Too Long Away"

The Sun, April 25th 2008
Her voice is as clear and pure as a Highland stream. From the same stable as fellow Scottish siren Julie Fowlis, welcome delightful 20-something folk singer Emily. Unlike Julie, who mostly sings in Gaelic, Emily sings in English on a ravishing collection of original and traditional songs. This begins with the heartfelt uplifting message of Sunset Hymn, proceeds through a touching ode to Caledonia and includes Robert Burns’ lesser known As I Was A Wand’ring. Emily’s voice is expertly framed by her accordion and piano and rousing contributions from her band. A fine singer breathing new life into the great Scottish folk tradition. SC
- The Sun

"Album Review - Too Long Away"

The Guardian, April 25th 2008
The new folk scene in England is in pretty good shape, thanks to newcomers such as Jackie Oates, but it could be argued that the new Scottish scene is even healthier. Julie Fowlis and Eddi Reader have shown different ways in which traditional influences are being reworked north of the border, and now comes this impressively varied and thoughtful set from a young singer and songwriter from Dumfries. Emily Smith plays piano and accordion, and her cool, confident, no-nonsense treatment of Robert Burns’ As I Was Wandering, or the rousing folk-rock treatment of May Colvin (a traditional song of lust, revenge and death), is matched against a series of her own gentle and reflective songs, which mostly stand up well against the older material. She is certainly ambitious. Old Mortality is an intriguingly sturdy story of a Dumfries stonemason who spent his life maintaining the graves of those who opposed the changes that King Charles I made to the Church of Scotland, while Winter Song is a modern Scottish answer to Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Smith deserves to become yet another new folk celebrity. RD
- The Guardian

"Album Review - Too Long Away ****"

Scotland on Sunday, May 4th 2008 ****
Rooted in the songs of her native Dumfriesshire, the music of Emily Smith looks to current folk stylings rather than old traditions. On keys and accordion she leads a six-strong band through reworkings of old balladics. But it’s her own songs that come to the fore. ‘The Mermaid of Galloway’ is set in a shuffling rhythm, while ‘Sunset Hymn’ is a lovely poppy slice of country folk. With her sweet tuneful vocals, varied arrangements and clean production values, Smith is set to garner an ever-expanding audience. Norman Chalmers
- Scotland on Sunday

"Album Review - Too Long Away"

Froots, June 2008 Issue
Here on album number three, Emily’s come a long way from when, as accordionist, pianist and singer, she won the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award back in 2002. After her predictably-full-of-promise debut, the follow up (A Different Life) signalled a shift in her development, increasingly as a writer of compelling original songs. Too Long Away moves things even further, now removing instrumental sets from the recorded menu entirely and instead managing a delicate balancing act between songs self-penned and those taken from traditional sources (five of each).

Emily achieves musical unity not only with her consistently please singing but also with a permanent backing band that’s a skilful and outstandingly sympathetic support unit. Jamie McClennan (fiddle), Ross Milligan (guitar, banjo) and Duncan Lyall (double bass) convincingly ply gentler, understated instrumental brushstrokes rather than unduly dazzling the ear, while the additional contributions of Luke Plumb (mandolin) and Alyn Cosker (drums) are impressively minimal and unobtrusive. Refreshingly too, her own piano accompaniments are deft and economical, avoiding flooding the ether with ubiquitous full-blown chordal washes.
Emily’s singing voice is very attractive in timbre and perfectly natural in its expression, with an approach to phrasing that’s mature beyond her years (she’s till only in her mid-twenties). This time round I was keenly aware of the full-toned and lifting qualities of her voice, a combination that, along with her soft Scottish accent, quite uncannily recalled Karine Polwart (not in any imitative sense – more like a subconscious parallel universe).
Emily also displays a comparable gift for writing enchanting, memorable melodies that really suit her lyrics. The wistful, comforting and tenderly reflective Come Home Pretty Bird is a good example: like her other compositions it’s directly inspired by her emotional reactions to places encountered on her solitary walks (Winter Song and Audience of Souls, both standout tracks) or historical figures from her locality (Old Mortality). The Dumfries region also provides the source for some of the disc’s traditional songs, e.g. the mesmeric Mermaid of Galloway, this contrasts with an altogether funkier setting employed for the ballad of May Colven, while the lesser-known Burns song As I was a Wand’ring receives an exemplary, beautifully expressive treatment from Emily.
This is an inspired and persuasive record, likely to propel Emily into the mainstream of folk acceptance without compromising her artistic integrity. David Kidman
- fRoots

"Boston Globe Live Review"

f it's possible nowadays to be a natural-born traditional singer, this 26-year-old Celtic wunderkind fills the bill. She grew up in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where Robert Burns spent his last years, and she's gallivanted across stages there since she was 3: first as a dancer, and now as a singer, songwriter, pianist, and accordion whiz. Her crystal soprano and unhurried phrasing sometimes suggest a young Scottish Mary Black. Smith is remarkably comfortable with ancient ballads, singing them as if the stories they tell had happened only yesterday. Her own songs meld the sweeping lilt of Scottish folk melody with lyrics that feel timeless in their emotions and deliciously modern in spirit.
Scott Alarick
October 2007
- Boston Globe

"Glasgow Herald Live Review"

Show location: ‘Auld Lang Syne’, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

This was a night of effortless excellence as the stars of the Scottish folk firmament showed a love and understanding of Burns in song to celebrate the poet's 250th birthday.

Saying they'd finished rehearsing "about five minutes ago", multi-instrumentalist and musical director for the night John McCusker led an outfit featuring the likes of Phil Cunningham, Dick Gaughan, Ewan Vernal, Anna Massie, James Grant, Karen Matheson, Karine Polwart and even festival director Donald Shaw through a fiery opening set. Sympathetic readings of Burns in his many moods followed, from Gaughan's powerful Parcel of Rogues, which sounded chillingly modern, to Eddi Reader's joyous Willie Stewart.

Shining most brightly were the supposedly lesser lights, principally the beautifully unaffected singing of Emily Smith and Mari Campbell. Voted singer of the year in the Traditional Music Awards last year, Smith's Silver Tassie was a highpoint, while Campbell's closing Auld Lang Syne, hugely popular after being featured in the movie Sex and the City, raised the rafters.

Date: 26th January 2009
Publication: The Glasgow Herald
Reviewer: not named - reviewer not named

"Album Review - A Different Life *****"

The Scotsman, January 2005
Emily Smith has continued to refine and develop her music since winning the Young Scots Traditional Musician of the Year in 2002, and has served up that "difficult second album" in some style. While she is a fine accordionist and pianist, it has become increasingly clear that she is primarily a singer. Her trademark interpretations of traditional songs drawn from her native Borders are fresh and expressive in their contemporary arrangements, and her own songs are growing stronger.


"Album Review - A Different Life ****"

The Herald, January 2005
Singer-accordionist Emily Smith won the Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year title in 2002 and has gone on to become one of Scottish folk music's brightest exports. This second album reflects her increased confidence and steel as a singer, songwriter and tune-smith and shows her continuing to draw strength from the traditions and history of her homeland around Dumfriesshire and Galloway. Imaginative and carefully varied arrangements highlight her clear, winsome singing which, though light, convincingly portrays weightier narratives such as Edward of Morton's tale as well as the romp of Go To Town and marries wistfulness with authority on Bob McNeill's appropriately windswept, string-driven Strong Winds for Autumn.

ROB ADAMS - The Herald

"Sunday Express Live Review"

Show location: ‘Auld Lang Syne’, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
24th Jan 09

“Since becoming BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2002, Emily Smith has established herself as one of the leading lights on Scotland’s folk scene. On the first night of the Homecoming celebrations, Emily sang a mix of folk Burns songs, rooted in the tradition but with a contemporary feel. This young woman sings like an angel and is lucky enough to look like one as well. And at just 26, her maturity, poise and brilliance put her head and shoulders above seasoned performers such as Eddi Reader.
This is someone with a big, big future.”

Date: 1st February 2009
Reviewer: Nicola Barry - Nicola Barry

"Album Review - A Different Life"

In any given calendar year there are several great albums. A Different Life falls into an entirely different category; it’s the sort of effort that makes you blurt out “Oh-my-God!” with a pregnant pause between each word. Think a bouncier version of Kate Rusby and you start to get the idea. The material is, at once, steeped in tradition but updated for modern ears. “It Fell About the Martinmas,” for instance, is a bothy ballad that is nonetheless pop-catchy. (It’s also a rare Scottish song in which a lass out-foxes a troupe of soldiers.) Likewise, the driving verve of “The Lochmaben Harper” proceeds at a pace as quick as the fleeing horse thief that is its subject. All of this is to say that Emily Smith’s band – anchored by her own fine accordion playing, the fret work of Steve Byrne and the lush fiddle work of Jamie McClennan – impresses in its own right. As they demonstrate on “The Salt Necklace,” a set of tunes composed by McClennan that have a faint Latin echo to them; and Smith’s own piano air, “Bonny Baby Kate,” this is one tight ensemble.

Still, it’s hard not to fall in love with Smith’s voice. Her cover of “Strong Winds for Autumn” is, quite simply, one of the finest things recorded this decade. McClennan’s atmospheric fiddle and Byrne’s precise guitar notes serve to enhance the song’s teary wistfulness. And I couldn’t help think that if Smith ever induced Kate Rusby to sing a duet with her on “The Lowlands of Holland,: flowers would bloom in the snow. Emily Smith is white hot in Scotland these days and if there’s any justice, the globe will soon bask in her glow.

Rob Weir,
Sing Out Magazine, Spring 2006.
- Sing Out Magazine, Spring 2006


CD - 'May Colven' (single) released on Spit & Polish/Cadiz Music July, 2008.

CD - 'Too Long Away' (album), released on Spit & Polish/Cadiz Music April, 2008.

CD - 'A Different Life', (album) released on White Fall Records, 2005.

CD - 'A Day Like Today', (album) released on Footstompin' Records, 2002



‘Scots Singer of the Year 2008’ Emily Smith has firmly established herself as a leading light in the Scottish folk scene.

Since winning the 2002 ‘BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award’ she has released three critically acclaimed albums, toured extensively with her band on the international folk circuit and is recognised not only as one of Scotland’s finest interpreters of traditional song but also as a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Emily spent six years living in Glasgow during which time gained an Honours degree in Scottish Music from The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Now living back in her home area of Dumfries & Galloway in South West Scotland Smith has found her niche drawing on the rich local history and ever changing landscape as the source and inspiration for her music. She has an affection (and growing reputation!) for collecting dusty old poetry and song books in search of new material. The results are re-worked ballads which seamlessly interweave with Smith’s own descriptive songs, often confusing the listener as to which material is old and which is new.
Her song writing has not gone without recognition – She became the first ever winner from Scotland in the USA Songwriting Competition in 2005 after winning the folk section with her song ‘Edward of Morton’, another of her songs ‘Always a Smile,’ about the life of her Polish grandmother, was short listed in the final ten.

Emily is currently recording an album of Robert Burns material focussing on songs Burns wrote while living in Dumfries & Galloway. The album titled ‘Adown Winding Nith’ will be released in the UK in autumn 2009.

Alongside her solo career Smith has written, recorded and toured with artists from the folk scene and beyond including Eddi Reader, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Chris Wood, John McCusker, David Scott and Phil Cunningham.
She has recorded live sessions for BBC Radio 2’s Bob Harris, Aled Jones and Mike Harding alongside receiving regular play on BBC Radio Scotland.
Recent television work includes performing on BBC 1 Scotland’s Hogmanay show live from Edinburgh Castle and as a featured singer in the new series of Transatlantic Sessions.
Frequently performing in the same line up as her musical heroes, Smith’s star is definitely in the ascendant.