Frank Emerson
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Frank Emerson

Wytheville, VA | Established. Jan 01, 1972 | INDIE

Wytheville, VA | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1972
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Villa Rica Voice"

In 1986, I was stationed in Savannah at Hunter Army Airfield, which is in
downtown southside.

One evening, some friends suggested that we get a bottle of champagne and
some strawberries and go down to the river for a romantic evening. The male half
of that couple was from Wisconsin, so his ignorance can be explained, but the
female half was from Bremen, Georgia and should have known better. This was
mid summer.

Well, we got to the river, broke out the champagne and berries and set about
to have a romantic evening in the humid 89 degree weather and Savannah’s
mosquitoes and Noseeums. In less than five minutes, we were drenched with sweat and
were waging a losing war against the bugs.

About that time, I heard guitar and singing coming from a River Street pub.
We agreed that the pub would provide a more hospitable atmosphere than the
banks of the Savannah, and on that night, I entered Kevin Barry’s for the first

We took a seat at our table and ordered. About that time, the singer, Frank
Emerson, started his next song....

“When I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of a

For the next five minutes I sat mesmerized as Emerson’s beautiful baritone
sang a tale of service in WWI, of facing the Turks at Gallipole and of coming
home to Australia a cripple.

Emerson sang happier songs, of nuns stuck in a lavatory, of what lies ‘neat
the Scotsman’s kilt, and more. Crying songs, drinking songs, clapping songs....

I left Kevin Barry’s that night a new fan of Irish music and a dedicated fan
of Frank’s.
Frank had some health problems over the past two years, undergoing treatment
for cancer. He faced his fight with typical Irish good humor – and he won it.

On Saturday, I sat near the Cultural Stage in the Savannah Civic Center and
listened to Frank sing songs of courage and patriotism. I listened to him tell
of trying to re-enlist in the Marine Corps after 9-11. I watched him absorb
and return the audience’s genuine love of Frank Emerson.

That summer night on the Savannah River was a turning point in my life. I was
a lifelong music lover before then, but Frank opened to me and my family the
wonderful world of Irish music, and I thank him for it.

So, here’s to Frank Emerson, Irishman, American, patriot! Cheers! - Stan Hardegree

"Greenville SC News & Kingsport TN News"

Frank Emerson is an overgrown leprechaun whose love of Ireland flows out of the hills of Southwest Virginia in a stream of music that might have washed the Blarney Stone.
The musical traditions of Ireland flow through his voice and guitar, but they have also picked up the flavor of America and the South.

I first encountered Frank about a year ago at Delaney’s Irish pub on the fringe of the University of South Carolina campus. Between witty toasts from whatever that was in his glass, he sang songs ranging from “Galway Bay” to “Waltz Across Texas.” You have to imagine Ernest Tubb with an Irish brogue. Frank brought it off well.
A year later, Miss Peggy and I drove to Columbia to join friends at Delaney’s for an Emerson encore. I was eager to learn more about the “Wild Geese of the Irish Brigade,” whose Latin motto translates to “Always and Everywhere Faithful.”
The song, which Frank wrote, celebrates the contributions of Irish expatriates toward American independence. Who were the Wild Geese of the Irish Brigade?
The first group to bear the name left Ireland in 1607 – the year Virginia was founded – and fought for France and Spain.
As Frank tells it, “The wild geese became a generic term for any expatriate Irish soldier who fought other countries' battles – usually against the British – and for one reason or another – largely due to British influence – was prohibited from returning to Ireland.”
A native of Ireland, Frank now lives in Wytheville, Va., the small town that lies in the Blue Ridge where I-77 crosses I-81 en route from Charlotte, N. C., to Charleston, W. Va. His wife, Frances, is director of historical resources for the town of Wytheville, where she oversees three museums.
Frank sings in places with names like Kevin Barry’s (Savannah), Mrs. O’Leary’s (Gaithersburg, Md.), Nanny O’Brien’s (Washington, D. C.), and O’Flaherty’s Irish Channel (New Orleans).
Frank collaborated with a former co-worker of mine from Roanoke, Va., to write a D-Day tribute. Titled “A New Dawn Forever,” it’s based on a poem by Bob Slaughter, who ran the composing room for the Roanoke Times when I ran its editorial page. Bob was one of the heroes of Omaha Beach during the Normandy Invasion.
Frank took Bob’s poem, tweaked it, arranged it, set it to music, and recorded it in a borrowed studio. The proceeds go to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., the little town in the shadow of the Peaks of Otter. It suffered more D-Day casualties per capita than any other American city.
Next time Frank performs at Delaney’s, I want to hear him sing it. - Gene Owens

"Dear Sarah featuring The Flag of Our Fathers"

They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

It seems almost impossible that an artist like Frank Emerson could exist in a day and age such as this, when a show of emotion is seen as a sign of weakness and indifference and hipness are considered interchangeable, when record labels view unique artists as liabilities rather than assets. Frank Emerson knows the value of a good story. He refuses to believe that tradition has lost its place in a world where thirty-five year old housewives run red lights in their Expeditions while simultaneously complaining to their broker about the maturity of their husband's 401(K) on their Nokia and to their children in the back seats about their scores on the latest standardized test at their National Blue Ribbon school of attendance.

Long story short: Frank knows how to sing songs that matter, that were written out of artistic expression, not to provide MTV with a canvas on which to plaster as much total square footage of bare female skin as possible.

On "Dear Sarah", Emerson has shed a substantial amount of pop influence that informed his previous release, "Safe in the Harbor". The result is a more traditional sounding folk album informed with some forward looking moments. On "Shelter", the tasteful, Eric Clapton-esque electric guitar adds dimension. Spoken-word introductions to some of the tracks add to the sense of theatrics.

The true miracle of this CD is how it manages to be melancholy without being nostalgic; joyful without being sugary. On the Dixieland-influenced "She's Gonna Marry Me", a man rejoices after his ninety-fifth marriage proposal to the same woman is accepted. "Dark Eyed Molly" has a proud, yet subtle parlor song feel to it, and "Supermarket Wine" is a bittersweet recollection of love that ended too soon. One of the most moving songs is "Waltzing on Borrowed Time", a testament to the inevitability of change and the importance of leaving things behind with grace.

There are a few places where the songwriting could be tighter. The opening track, "Flags of Our Fathers", despite an honest, strongly worded patriotic rhetoric, repeats itself too many times, and "She's Gonna Marry Me" seems to have one bridge too many.

But if every album ever released could claim to only have so few flaws, the world just might be a better place. I have the feeling that Frank Emerson will do all he can to make it so. - The Muse's Muse - David Lockeretz

"There's a Story Told"

Frank Emerson’s There’s a Story Told has a warm, immediate feel. You can put on this disc, sit back with a pint and imagine yourself in comfortable tavern listening to him pick his guitar and wrap his rich voice around these songs.

Frank introduces each song with a short tale spoken in his brogue-ish voice. As he says at the beginning of the cd, that’s also what he does when he performs. It’s a folksy touch, and music historians might get a kick out of the information.

But most of the songs speak for themselves. Frank covers a spectrum that runs from Irish reels to ballads to jazz to love songs. One constant throughout is Frank’s guitar: he’s a heck of a player. Except for the occasional tin whistle, it’s all the accompaniment he needs.

Starting off an album with a looking-back-at-life Irish weeper might seem like an odd choice, but “Carrickfergus” is a heartfelt, expressive number. That’s followed by the spry “Lannigan’s Ball,” one of Story’s highlights.

Frank’s originals fit nicely within this album of cover versions. “'Tween the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is a spirited seafaring ballad buoyed by a jaunty tin whistle. “Drink!” is, as its title not-so-subtly suggests, an ode to the camaraderie found in taverns.

The jazzy numbers “Sweet Savannah Sunday” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (the Mamas and Papas did a well-known version) are fun. Frank’s vocal work on “Dream” is smooth and charming. Picture yourself taking your pint at an outside table on a warm, breezy night as you listen to these.

Frank is a patriotic guy, and his version of “God Bless America” is stirring. His guitar turns it into a folk song, and his voice does this classic justice. This rendition would have had even more power if it had been the last song on the album.

There’s a Story Told is a good sampler of how a basic one guitar/one voice combination can work in a variety of genres. It’s also a good indication that Frank Emerson is a confident onstage entertainer. - Chip Witherow - The Muse's Muse

"Safe in the Harbour"

I love this CD. It combines some well-known modern folk classics with tracks I never heard before, and a singer with a lovely, strong voice (reminiscent of Liam Clancy's) and minimal instrumentation performs them. Most of the tracks are re-mastered from a cassette recording of the late 1980s but this probably adds and authenticity to the songs. "The Mary Ellen Carter," written by Stan Rogers, opens the CD. This is one of the best-written modern folk classics, comparing efforts to raise a sunken ship to any of us fighting adversity. It is a strong message "hidden in the long grass" of a tale well told with a rousing tune and chorus. (It was only when reading the credits on this CD that I realised how many great modern folk songs Stan Rogers wrote. The CD is dedicated to him.) Liam Reilly's "Savannah Serenade" is new to me but it grabbed my attention immediately. It is beautifully descriptive of what I imagine Savannah must be. "Ships from everywhere come up the river" reminds me that Savannah was a destination I wrote about for the small ships from my hometown of Wexford involved in the cotton trade in the 1800s. "Field Behind the Plough" was familiar to me from the singing of Frances Black with Arcady, but Emerson's deep male voice gives it a new meaning. The title track, "Safe in the Harbour," is by Eric Bogle and is yet another of those songs that gives us a positive message while the song tells a very good story. "Where Do You Go to My Lovely" was a big hit for Peter Sarstedt decades ago. I enjoyed it on its initial outing but only began to understand it when I listened to it with older ears on this CD. It is another example that in general good folk music often starts out as good pop music that has a story to tell. Stan Rogers' beautiful love song "Forty-Five Years from Now" has been murdered by some "country" singers here in Ireland, but Emerson renews it and makes it relevant again. The Virginia tourist board should present Emerson and writer Lew DeWitt with awards for the song "I Love Virginia." I wanted to pack my bags and get a flight straight after hearing it coupled with the traditional "To Be a Virginian." If Thomas Moore were alive he would be wealthy based on the number of folk artists who use his "Minstrel Boy" either as a song or an instrumental backing for a poem. Emerson uses it in both guises on "The Fallen" to great effect in a tribute to the many war dead. Maybe it is because I recently experienced the Canadian Rockies for the first time but "Canadian Whiskey" is my favourite track on this album. It is not as strong as the Buffy Saint-Marie songs but it does tell a tale very well. "The Granda" gives the dramatic recitation new life as it looks at war in the 20th century. This is a CD that seldom leaves my player. The blend of old and new, novel and familiar is hard to beat. I would dearly love to hear more of this singer and his unerring choice of material. There is not a single track that I skip. - Rambles - Nicky Rossiter

"Various Blurbs"

"Top notch!" - King Street Chronicle

"Glorious - tremendous presence on stage." - Savannah Irish Festival

"Delightful" - Savannah Morning News "

A fine repertoire" - Irish Echo

"A fine voice" - Dirty Linen Magazine

"Emerson presents his music with grace" - Blue Ridge Serendipity

"High quality" - Glen Echo Irish Festival

"Exciting and highly entertaining" - Spotlight Magazine

"Could not have selected a better performer" - Council for Community Enrichment, Radford, VA

"A great Dublin entertainer with wonderful endorsements" - The Pilot, Southern Pines, NC

"A keen sense of awareness of a proper balance of both strength and sensitivity...a wealth of entertainment experience" - The Paper "

Knows how to entertain...Amazing dexterity" - Creative Loafing

"It was standing room only" - Diversions, Savannah Morning News

"Delightfully sentimental...Emerson does a wonderful job, inciting the crowd to sing along" - Savannah Evening Press

"Extremely powerful songs" - National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia

"The man of 1000 toasts - a favorite of Savannah and the festival" - Savannah Irish Festival 2001

"One of the best times of our lives" - Maryanne & Larry Rushton, Washington State

"This talented guitarist plays traditional and contemporary Irish folk songs and originals with both grace and flair" - Connect Savannah

"The most moving version of 'The Wearing of the Green' we've ever heard." - Cynthe & Craig Wadsworth, Louisiana - Various Publications


Emerson & Reed
Ourselves Alone
Rise Again!
Safe in the Harbour
Supermarket Wine
Dear Sarah featuring The Flag of Our Fathers
A New Dawn Forever
There's a Story Told



Playing the guitar and occasionally on the Celtic drum
called the bodhran, Frank, though hardly a  traditionalist,
embodies many of the traditions of the ancient bards, but with a more
contemporary twist. A singer/songwriter, his performances are presented
with aplomb, grace and good humor. Interspersed with varied insights
into the background of the songs are stories, jokes and toasts, so that
his appearances are informative as well as entertaining. He is much more
than a songster. He is an entertainer!

Although a good amount of his material is in the Irish music mould, he
also embraces Scottish, Canadian, American, Australian and even British
folk music and some country, some western and some standards as well. He runs the gamut from humorous to soulful.

Rendered in a rich baritone that is eminently
understandable, he has been in demand as a voiceover
actor for commercials and narrations. He performs with a
refined sense of comic and dramatic timing developed through his
experiences on the folk circuit, in front of a classroom, in the
theater, and in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Performing professionally since 1972, Frank has had nine record albums
produced, which reviewers have characterized variously as "eclectic" and
"highly entertaining". In addition, he has performed on the recordings of numerous friends and
associates in the business.

In 2000, he collaborated with Harry O'Donoghue and Carroll Brown on the
successful "A Christmas Postcard", from which they fashioned a
touring Christmas show.

After 9/11, he wrote and recorded "The Flagof Our Fathers", which was picked up by The American Legion as a sound track to a film they were producing.

In 2002, he and Bob Slaughter a noted D-Day Veteran, co-wrote "A New Dawn Forever" that Frank recorded to benefit the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. The song was
used in  a documentary shown on international television for the 60th anniversary of D-Day called "The Long March of Bob Slaughter".

In 2003, Frank received awards from American Legion Post 36 and from The
Veterans Council of Chatham County, Georgia for his patriotic compositions and performances.

In 2005, he received an award for his continued support for the veterans of Chatham County, Georgia from the Lt. Gen. John N. McLaughlin Post #1943 of the Catholic War Veterans.

In 2006, Frank's patriotic song, "One Nation United", received the
Directors' Award at the Nashville International Spring Song and Lyric
Contest and for which Frank was named Golden Patriotic Writer by the Entertainer Indi-Association.

Dublin is a long time past, and he has resided in the States for a
considerable length of time. Since 1986, Frank has made his home - when
he is not on the road - over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern

Frank is also  an accomplished freelance writer.His services are marketed under the company name "There's a Story Told". He is the author of a number of published non-fiction short stories as well
as the author/narrator of the acclaimed audio guide "A Walking Tour of Historic Wytheville, Virginia.

In 1996, he co-authored the book, "Wythe County Virginia During the War Between the States".

In 2007, together with four fellow musicians, Frank authored a collaborative
anthology of reminiscences and stories of the past 30-odd years on the
Irish music scene. Titled "Clean Cabbage in the Bucket and other Tales
From the Irish Music Trenches",

In 2014,he wrote and published "Wythe Bane Graham - 8th
Virginia Cavalry, CSA: Letters and Narrative of a Son of the Old

In 2015 he authored "Frank Tells Tales: Recollections,
Explanations and Narratives from Years Spent Inflicting His Presence on
Innocent, Unsuspecting Audiences".

He is currently working on a book dealing with the Confederate raid on
St. Albans, Vermont in 1864 and is also a staff researcher/writer for
REMILON, a web-based, educational research company. Examples
of Frank's writing from his portfolio along with his writer's profile
can be accessed at

His open personality and ready smile translate easily on and off the
boards. It is obvious to any audience that he treasures being able to do
what he does for a living. He respects his stock in trade and he
respects his audience.

What with his interesting little two-step with cancer a few years back,
he is fairly certain that - to paraphrase Rocky Graziano - somebody up
there likes him.

Band Members