After eleven (!) self-released efforts, Ember Schrag’s latest album is coming at us through a record deal with Lone Prairie Records, a Nebraskan-faithful imprint that’s slowly building a roster to rival that of local champions Saddle Creek. At just 24 years old, Schrag has certainly been busy. Between writing songs, she’s a mum to an 18-month old daughter and keeps an open house that serves as meeting place, rehearsal room and concert venue for the steady flow of entertainers and music lovers who pop by the city of Lincoln.
A singer-songwriter with a poetry degree might induce winces in certain circles, but A Cruel, Cruel Woman demands an open mind. From the upbeat start of ‘Cupid’s Bloom’ to the nostalgic close of ‘Cruel Woman Blues’, this is an album that needs to be digested over the course of several listens. Schrag’s voice is smoky and evocative, engaging flawlessly with her mixed-genre confection of folksy lyrics and bluesy guitar work.
Perhaps most appealing of all is ‘The Course Of Love’, a boldly sung, mandolin-drenched ballad built around the a gently lilting melody, Schrag’s alluring croon and some heartfelt, accessible lyrics, but the competition is strong. Against the odds, and probably inspired by them, Schrag has produced an album worthy of receiving wider attention.
[Lone Prairie; June 26, 2009]
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