Prison, gardening, love and murder all become stories told by this well-loved songwriting duo: a bejeweled banquet of vocal harmonies, world percussion, accordion, double bass, piano, cello and more.
“Ameri-celtic-ana song-writing pair Ember present their fourth and most incredible album”
It’s 11:30, the set has just finished, and Emily and Rebecca sit down to chat with some new fans. One of the most common questions pitched by listeners after an Ember gig is “Are you two sisters?” One can see from the questioner’s face that he wants the answer to be “yes,” so as to explain the extraordinary blending of voices, the mind-reading and occasional personality clashes that occur when these two curly-headed women step on stage.
Whether warming up their voices by running through the numerous a’cappella songs in their repertoire or laughing inexplicably over the set list, the two singers seem to know each other too well to be just colleagues. But no, they finally explain. They’re not sisters by birth, only by practice, having subjected themselves to each other’s company for months at a time in the past 8 years, first to seek adventure throughout Europe, Mexico and the western states, and then later for more formal tours around most regions of the U.K.
Within hours of meeting in a Barcelona youth hostel, Rebecca and Emily were already trading names of their favourite bands -- Emily enthused over Dead can Dance and Suzanne Vega, while Rebecca was wild over Ani Difranco – and spinning fantasies of how they, too, might be able to combine travel and music in the near future.
One day the near future turned into the present, when they gleefully re-convened at the same youth hostel, some months later, then tootled down south to Andalucia for a 4-month stay in the dreamy white-washed town of Ronda. Here, their first co-written songs, and the band name, were born.
It hasn’t always been easy, being part of an ambitious duo that’s largely on-call for gigs and festivals, and has been for more than 7 years now. For one thing, their different backgrounds can lead to misunderstandings, and not just over the pronunciation of “tomato.” Emily lived the austere yet imaginative childhood of a farmer’s daughter, inclined to entertain herself with stories and home-made magazines for her Teddies, while Rebecca was a fan of Salt Lake's downtown malls from an early age, and would avoid the chaos wrought by her 5 siblings by lingering at the mall bus-stop for an extra hour after dance practice.
Both girls were encouraged/forced to practice their first instruments daily, and when they grew bored of the classical fare on offer, they got their hands on guitars, with a view to finally playing some cool music.
So. . . is this music cool? Well it’s certainly not pop. The seductive sighs and ooh-baby beats that populate Radio 1 playlists are thrillingly absent from Ember songs.
Blending an array of instruments, Ember hop around the globe taking in the bluegrass style of mid-west America, before heading to gypsy-land France. Then they find the rhythmic beats of Africa before galloping out into a mediaeval Welsh landscape.
Traditional, yet original folk influenced melodies send shivers down your spine. Their trademark vocal harmonies are spiced up with harmonica, accordion and a blend of skilful percussion playing. The haunting and melancholic sounds of the clarinet and cello bring a beautiful and evocative depth to this, Ember’s fourth album