With the release of The Black and Wretched Blue, Emma Hill finds herself physically back on familiar turf, in her home state of Alaska, but there are some sonic touches on the album that conjure up a distinctly more southerly territory. It's a fitting dichotomy for an album that resonates with wanderlust and longing for home.
Hill's honey-smoked voice takes on a soulful growl in many of the numbers, and combined with the horns that periodically kick in to accompany the familiar guitar, banjo and pedal steel, it imparts a bit of a New Orleans vibe to many of the songs. There is still plenty of rootsy sensibility to Emma Hill's music, but it is tinged with a soupcon of jazz.
From the sultry swing of Crushin' to the sweet sadness of The Arrow is Sharp, from the affectionate playfulness of Fallin' For a Girl to the aching lilting cry of A Hundred Homes, Emma Hill shows a maturation that sees her stretching her wings into new musical territory. The Black and Wretched Blue is a nicely nuanced album, full of heartache and joy, that satisfies on many levels.