Emily Scott Robinson’s Traveling Mercies defines the notion of a pure folk album, as she conveys the simple beauty of life across 12 reflective songs.
While the first half of the album finds Robinson making intrinsic observations — whether describing herself as a “White Hot Country Mess” who pays her dues on the road with a Gibson guitar and self-penned songs or wistfully capturing small town life as she journeys across the country to reconnect with a missing piece of herself — Robinson uses these songs as a launching point to gain deeper insight into life’s obstacles. She encourages women to own their worth and abandon the desire to impress those who fail to recognize their value on “Pie Song,” a modest title that carries heavy meaning. In it, Robinson shares a line of stark truth: “Nothing you can make can make you good enough / if you’re cooking for a man who doesn’t love you.”
She continues to keep women at the forefront with “The Dress,” which tells the story of a sexual assault she endured at age 22 and grapples with its aftermath: “Was there some sign I ignored / was there even time to run from that storm?” Another powerful song is “Shoshone Rose,” with Robinson spinning a captivating tale about a conquering woman from the Shoshone tribe who “took a vow that she’d never rest until she’d run the white man out.” Backed by a stormy melody, Robinson weaves a gripping image that keeps the listener immersed in the story of this unwavering character.
Throughout the album, Robinson turns each song into an engaging journey, particularly on “Run,” which centers around domestic violence. Here she creates the intriguing narrative of a woman who ends the life of her abusive husband, drawing on potent words to put the listener in her position: “He’s the kind of thunderstorm that takes all day to brew / I was always in the way when he’d come tearing through.”
Even when dealing with a theme as somber as death, Robinson harbors the creativity to transform it into a positive outlook. “Overalls” brings a colorful spirit to a man whose days on earth are coming to an end. But rather than feeling defeated, he calls on his family to reflect on his life from an uplifting perspective: “Don’t dress in black and don’t let me see you cry / I’m not afraid, I’m just heading home / and it’s time to let me go,” Robinson sings with sincerity. True to her artistry, Robinson sends the listener off with a sense of hopefulness on the title track, closing the album with a unifying message to wanderers around the world: “Traveling mercies, may love bring you home.”
Robinson uses Traveling Mercies — a title that alludes to the miles racked up in the RV she calls home as well as a more metaphorical sort of movement — as an opportunity to produce honest, humble folk music, honoring the purity that makes the genre so distinct. As she naturally transitions from the lessons she’s learned in life to taking on challenging subject matters in a compelling way, Robinson proves herself to be a graceful, yet convincing storyteller.