Since its release on September 18th, Irish singer-songwriter Emma Langford’s sophomore set has been in regular rotation here in my den; in some respects, then, this is more akin to my 50th impression. (I’m exaggerating a might, but you get the idea.) I’d planned to write about it a while back, but – as is my wont – got distracted by other albums, other artists. But to not spotlight it would be a disservice, as it’s an excellent outing.
From afar, the picturesque scenes Langford paints are pristine, replete with gentles waves, bobbing boats, and seagulls skating the sky. A closer inspection, however, reveals a violent sea: waves thrash, bash and batter capsized boats; and those gulls are swooping low in hopes of plucking their meals from the water. The painter and sea, of course, are little more than metaphors in this construct for a singer and her songs, with my blessed rage for order explaining the rest. It’s what we fans often do, if one thinks it through, translating the artist’s hues into those of our own souls.
In any event, Langford delves into the vagaries of this thing called life with artful precision, delineating poetic insights time and again. Her clarion vocals often conjure Joni, sometimes Sandy, and others whose names escape me at present, with her lyrics delving into more than just matters of the heart (though there’s that, too). Self-esteem and self-worth are among those other subjects, as exemplified by the stark and stirring opener, “Birdsong.”
The title track, my favorite from the set, is a thing of genius she crafted after experiencing anxiety, insomnia and fever dreams while pursuing her masters degree a few years back. (The CD booklet gives background information about the songs.) In some respects, it’s the sonic equivalent of that moment when one drifts into or out of sleep, when the conscious and subconscious minds collide.
Another standout track is “The Winding Way Down to Kells Bay,” which she wrote in memory of her grandfather.
Dreamscapes, seashores and more – that, in a sense, is what the album explores. Ostensibly, it would or should be classified as “folk” or “folk-pop.” (All of its songs would’ve been at home on my long-ago Folk Show and, back in the early ‘90s, on such AAA radio stations as WXPN, which regularly played the likes of Mary Black and Maura O’Connell.) Anyway, the “more” I mention above includes the upbeat “Ready-O,” about being true to one’s self, that’s guaranteed to get one’s feet a-tapping and one’s fingers to snapping.
The captivating “Goodbye Hawaii,” which she released as a single last year, explores the backward-looking aspect of some epiphanies: “You know the funny thing about the day you realize who or what you are/Is that by the time it happens you’re probably not that anymore.”
As a whole, Sowing Acorns is well worth more than a few listens; one can buy it via Bandcamp or listen to it on the major streaming services. (And, if you do, don’t be surprised if you hear the opening strains of “Sowing Acorns,” the song, seep into your head as you drift off to sleep.)
The track list:
Also of note, for those who prefer the live experience, she performs eight of the songs below. While no substitute for a concert, until the pandemic fades, it’s the best we can do…