I realize that in this community of old hippies, post-punk latter-day newbie-parental types and the occasional bluegrass traditionalist who stumbles here by mistake because they think we all love to hear the “Orange Blossom Special” covered the same way six thousand times, that I sometimes stand alone. Well maybe not alone, but sort of to the left of the main event. The reason being is that I suck up new music and young(er) musicians like a Dyson on a shag carpet. And despite my posts in the last eleven months about Jules Shear and his wife Pal Shazar (four times), Lou Reed, the Smithereens (just once each) and Grateful Dead (twice)…much of what I listen to is from people in their twenties and thirties, and sometimes even their teens. This year at a Rosh Hashanah dinner I found myself defending Miley Cyrus as being as relevant as Beethoven…or maybe it was Woody or Pete. And Taylor Swift? Dig her. Sort of.
Let me tell you how I listen to new music, no matter who, new, young, old or how established the artist is. Fast. Yes, I admit that while skimming quickly on the iTunes player or Spotify is not very fair or friendly, and devalues the art and hard work that goes into it, its how I roll. If it catches my ear, it’s a keeper. If not, it gets the hook. Gong Show style. The ones I find interesting get placed in a one thousand song playlist and they stay with me for at least three weeks, and get listened to either in a shuffle mode or maybe end to end if I’m really enthralled.
Say hello to Emily Mure, and her latest album Odyssey.
I found her music last July, after reading about her on another website. It went into the aforementioned playlist and has stayed there ever since. And, to be utterly honest, it’s not because I fell in love with it straight off, but because it haunted and challenged me. There was/is something about her songs and voice that made me want to go off into a quiet place and to be sure I captured each and every note. She surprised me too. When I expected the melody to go up the scale, it went down. When you think it’s time for a minor chord transition, she shifts to a major key. And just when you’re pretty sure you’ve got your basic coffee house folky singer-songwriter, she slips into that chamber mojo mode where people like Marissa Nadler and Meg Baird live, and then out of nowhere…I mean like an Ali left jab…you get a pedal steel, oboe and a cello thrown at you. Bam.
She’s a New York City girl who attended a performing arts high school, studied classical music and played the oboe at Carnegie and Avery Fisher Halls while still in her teens. At college she studied Oboe Performance and Psychology…and for the life of me I can’t figure out if that’s one major or two. Some college kids get into dope, drink and sex…she succumbed to folk, bluegrass and the guitar. Falling in love with traditional Irish music, she took off across the Atlantic for a summer studying Celtic music at the University of Limerick. After she came back home to finish her studies at Ithaca College, she moved to Galway and busked in the streets for six months.
“I moved out to Ireland with my best friend from college. At the time I was in need of escape and after spending some time in Ireland a few years before for an Irish/trad summer program, I decided to go back to explore the country further. I didn’t go with the intention of singing on the streets- I wanted to just travel. We got temporary work visas and I was having trouble finding a job. After one afternoon busking, I decided I would try to do this for income- and so I did (for a very modest but livable income) It was challenging which is why it was great. I learned so much about myself and it thickened my skin and gave me confidence.”
By 2009 she was back in New York and recording her first album, while performing on the vibrant folk circuit that we have in this part of the world, from Pennsylvania to Maine. In 2012 she started getting some airtime on television and began recording the current album…which is available at all the usual places like here and here and here and here.
Emily has been touring and doing shows to support the new album, and as all DIY artists do, she has her day job of teaching guitar to help pay the bills. Given her background, I asked her if she was involved in the classical world. “I still play the oboe but mainly for fun. I am thinking about getting back into ensemble playing but for now- it’s mostly just a hobby. I’m enjoying writing for my oboist- Emily DiAngelo. I love the oboe but didn’t love the repertoire or the classical music atmosphere which is why I made the shift once I started playing guitar and writing songs. Felt like folk and songwriting was more me.”
February 5, 2017: As is the case with most of the musicians I’ve written about through the years, Emily and I had never met. We exchanged emails and stayed loosely connected via social media. I knew she had moved to Massachusetts, was playing on the club and coffee house circuit throughout the Northeast, and worked as a music teacher. Last night she did backup singing at folksinger-artist Joe Crookston’s Imagine Nation concert and we spoke at length before the show. She’s living back in Manhattan and working on a new album. Her website is updated, has playlists and videos, lists her tour dates, and contact information if you’re in need of singing, songwriting or guitar lessons.
In the original article that was published, I also mentioned Emily’s grandfather, guitar player Billy Mure. Since then, through the magic window of Google, I’ve decided his story should be told on it’s own. When I write it, I’ll link it here.
In the meantime, here’s a video Emily posted recently and this song is stuck inside my head. Glad we finally met…this is a very special person.