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rnrnFor her second album of covers, Canadian self-made woman Emm Gryner once again avoids the pointless celeb rnkaraoke approach of some of her peers, but where 2001’s Girl Versions lovingly emasculated songs by everyone from Thrush Hermit to Blur via Ozzy Osbourne – an eclectic enough selection to rival even Tori Amos’ Strange Little Girls, released the same year but with ten times the marketing budget – Songs Of Love & Death is a nationalistic nod to the Irish. More contemporary than other Irish covers albums (Sinéad O’Connor’s Sean-Nós Nua, The Corrs’ Home) and with little in the way of traditional Celtic instrumentation, Songs… finds Gryner stripping back each song to its rnemotional core and working up from there.rnrnKicking in with chiming guitar and harpsichord arpeggios, Forget Georgia sounds for all the world like a long-lost classic Pretenders single, though is actually an obscure cut from Something Happens. It’s not hard to see why rnthe song’s picked up some airplay in the more discerning corners of national radio, but there are finer moments elsewhere. Gryner’s versions of Running Back, a track from Thin Lizzy’s 1976 album Jailbreak, and The Corrs’ Breathless both demonstrate the panache of her deconstruction. Both are sheared to the bone as tender piano ballads wracked with the true desperation of the lyrics. Likewise, Ash’s Shining Light benefits from the minimalist treatment; in Gryner’s hands, the disposable punk-pop anthem morphs into a tender hymn to love. Dana Feder’s achingly beautiful cello counterpoint the vocals and piano, with subtle church organ riffing completing the mystical effect. Deckchairs & Cigarettes forgoes The Thrills’ Americana stylings in favour of the full Celtic treatment – marching-season pipe and drum backing contrasting deliciously with jangly indie pop. Perhaps the most obscure and surprising inclusion of the album is Dearg Doom from Celtic rock group Horslips’ seminal disc, The Tain (1974). Quite how the casual listener, unaware of the track’s genesis as centrepiece of a concept-album based on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, will assimilate the lyrical content – Irish hero Cu Chulainn taunting the ranks of an army he’s about to slay single-handedly – I couldn’t say, but the electro-pop arrangement with its muted guitar, harpsichord, fuzz bass rnand distorted vocals is brilliantly compelling nonetheless.rnrnIn comparison, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Nothing Rhymed is the straightest cover on the album, but even here there are quirks in the arrangements; pianoforte mixed with the mbira, an East African thumb piano, makes for an effective instrumental duet. Add to that the jaunty, almost Victoria rnWood-like delivery, and its the perfect contrast to what comes next. The measured horror of the Virgin Prunes’ Bau-Dachong is truly chilling; desperate vocals and grotesque sequenced rhythms build to uncover layer after layer of menace. Never has folk legend Kate McGarrigle’s banjo sounded more disturbing. rnrnUnquestionably, this is a true tour de force and the record’s emotional climax. Which is great, except that everything thereafter smacks rna little of lost momentum. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with Gryner’s takes on The Undertones’ Julie Ocean, Therapy?’s Nowhere or the much covered traditional Moorlough Shore; it’s just that they’ve a tough act to follow. Of the three, however, Nowhere is the strongest candidate for radio. Divorced from Therapy?’s muscular style, it becomes a likeable acoustic ditty with a Sheryl Crow-ish vocal.rnrnThe renaissance of the covers album as a valid expression of artistry is still quite recent, and there’s no doubt that Gryner owes some small debt to the likes of Annie Lennox, Tori Amos and even Cat Power, but Songs Of Love & Death reasserts the wisdom of the old jazz truism that skilful interpretation of song is an art unto itself. It’s to Gryner’s credit, too, that her artistic input extended to playing almost all of the instruments, including the mbira. Following a successful tour of the Emerald Isle and the recent radio adds, here’s hoping a full UK release for this excellent collection can be organised, and soon!rnrn- wearsthetrousers.comrnrn
rnrnFor the record, I did not let my massive crush on Emm Gryner affect the review of her album of contemporary Irish song covers. On Songs of Love and Death, Emm (we\'re on a first-name basis) showcases the ability of a cover song to say something, both reverent and irreverent, about coverer and coveree. On Dearg Doom, she funks The Horslips\' prog-rock original into a tough little gem, while on Thin Lizzy\'s Running Back she somehow evokes the best of Annie Lennox. And if that wasn\'t enough, she gently rips The Thrill\'s Deck Chairs and Cigarettes a new one. The album\'s last three songs are a bit boring after so many strong musical excursions, but like the fictional relationship Emm and I share, it\'s all about taking the good with the bad.rnrn- The Ottawa Expressrnrn
rnrnEmm Gryner has a luxury that many singer-songwriters are not afforded in today’s cut-throat music market. Gryner owns her own record label, Dead Daisy Records, and therefore enjoys full freedom to express her musical creativity without the worry of the commerciality of it. So when it came time for Gryner to record her seventh album, the idea of an entire album of Irish musician covers was within Gryner’s power to explore.rnrnSongs of Love and Death gives you eleven songs which, although not originally of her own creation, Gryner has defiantly left her mark on. Known for her often haunting vocals, the songs flow together with a sense of whimsicalness, and Gryner’s voice leads the listener through an emotional journey. While working on the project, Gryner found two recurring themes in the music she was exploring, love and death. Working within these themes, Gryner transforms each song into a new presentation, often with an opportunity to explore the song from a different emotional view.rnrnGryner transforms a song like “Breathless” by The Coors, originally a high energy, upbeat, generally happy tune, into a slow mournful lament over the stripped down sound of just piano, clarinet and cello. Gryner’s voice leads the listener through the lyrics of the song as though it were almost a suicide note from a brokenhearted lover. The transformation is so complete that Gryner has reported that many concertgoers have not recognized the song as The Coors in any form.rnrnOther works that Gryner takes on include a piano/vocal solo version of Thin Lizzy’s “Running Back”; an upbeat, toe-tapping rendition of Therapy?’s rather lyrically depressing “Nowhere”; a waltz around Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Nothing Rhymed”; 1970’s punk-rock band The Virgin Prunes’ “Bau-Dachong” becomes a haunting vocal floating over banjo for the majority of the song. Other artists include, The Thrills, Ash, The Undertones, and Horslips.rnrnSongs of Love and Death is not Gryner’s first release of covered material. In 2001, she released Girl Versions, containing a wide variety of material from male artists altered (in a way that only Gryner can) into a “girl’s version.” However, this does not mean that Songs of Love and Death, Gryner’s second cover album in four years, is any indication that she is running low on her own creative juices. Just one listen of Songs of Love and Death will show that Gryner’s still putting in 100%, just as she has with all her original material. Gryner has marked these songs with her own personal flavour so successfully, that if you didn’t know it was a covers album, Songs of Love and Death would easily flow with Gryner’s original catalogue.rnrn4 Starsrnrnbeingtheremagazine.comrnrn
rnrnrnArtist: Emm GrynerrnAlbum: Songs Of Love & DeathrnDate Of Release: 2005rnGenre: Indie Pop, AlternapoprnBitrate: VBR --alt-preset extreme