Emily Slade - “Shire Boy” - RusticHorn Records - RUSTCD04

This just in: new canine learns old tricks. The first full-length release from my favourite twenty-something of the moment, Emily grew up immersed in the grass roots scene in much the same way as Kate Rusby. With parents still organising Hitchin's long-running Folk Club, one can only imagine the countless guitars that have overnighted in the family's hall and their owners who have consumed Country Crunch around the breakfast bar. Her background shows through admirably on this determinedly assured debut album which avoids the contemporary-versus-traditional push and pull and pleasingly gets the ingredient balance just right.

Currently a member of the Phil Beer band and with endorsement from Chris While and Huw Williams, Emily's has been a name that has cropped up in many's the early hours festival bar conversation this year, so what were you expecting? An Eliza 'Red Beans' foray into trip-hop? An Equation choc-full-of-pop-hooks sail into major label territory? Whatever else 'Shire Boy' is, it's certainly neither of these and fans of the telling lyric can rest assured that there is much to enjoy here.

In the compellingly original title track she exudes the kind of emotional resonance that Ralph McTell's 'Hiring Fair ' does and is the work of a consummate writer whilst the whistle-catchy 'Collector's Lot ' based around her Mum's compulsive trips to Hitchin market to add ever more dust magnets to the plate rack finds her in typically winsome mood. Yes she has musical influences - at times June Tabor, at others Pete Morton (the guest list features him with other invaluable and 'name' supporters) are readily apparent but Ms Slade can put a fresh spin on songs such as 'The Golden Glove' here called 'Dog, Cane and Gun ' whilst the powerful spirit and atmosphere throughout make this a punchy collection with a very warm heart. It has real finesse - subtle and effective.

All Emily Slade need do is mine a little deeper to discover her own voice - it's only a matter of time and if this CD is her 'Please Please Me' her 'Hard Days Night' will be breathtaking!

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 46 of The Living Tradition magazine.