Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes happen to be one of the quirkiest and amazing acts in music today. Their touring piano player, Aaron Embry, who has been “in the game” a while in his own right, released a new album Tiny Prayers on September 18th. This new album is a delight from start to finish with a collection of Americana music. Influenced by some of the most foundational music in the 20th century, Embry highlights a number of American styles from country to blues and even roots rock. This is a must-have album for fans of Americana music.
“Moon of the Daylight Sky” was a prescribed “hit” from this album, used for promotional purposes to get more people to the album. It’s got an easy western swing feel to it. It will put some listeners in mind of a “round the campfire cowboy” song. Yet, in the midst of that unique baked bean flavoring the song manages to have a distinctly modern styling. We’re not sure how he did it, but he did. Old and new fused into something quirky and satisfying.
“Raven’s Song” was the song on this album that made me stop everything I was doing and pay attention. It begins with a gorgeous piano scale run. The recording of the song isn’t really “lo-fi” per se, but it has a particularly muted quality to it. The piano itself sounds soft… and inviting. Embry’s vocals and songwriting are impeccable. This song has a flavor that is part early jazz and a little slice of story-telling country. If this isn’t Americana, nothing is.
“May we always have our afternoons… may our longest days always end too soon… may our hearts remain at overflow… may we love the one we cannot know… tiny prayers for the young sent away.” These lyrics from the album’s title track reveal the heart of the album in a beautiful way. It bears the depth of soulful connection between spirits. It’s the kind of song that leaves listeners relaxed and sparks memories, dreams, and excites passions. Oh, and the harmonica is awesome.
Perhaps the best track on the album is “Ode to ‘If,” another piano song that has a minimalist (or is it old fashioned?) quality to it. Connecting a series of “if” clauses, the singer’s heart seems to be in flux, if hopeful. It’s such a cozy song, but has an intriguing complexity to its musical structure. The ending seems like there will be more… but it lets us down easy. Fascinating and SO good.
“No Go” is the song that epitomizes the album perfectly. It has a nice mix of guitar and harmonica, accented by Embry’s world-class vocals. He’s exceptionally gifted in his ability to evoke emotion in his words and syntax. It, again, has the sing-songy country style vocals to it at times. Embry’s style does a great job of combining several styles into one all its own.
This is an album that few listeners will feel the need to “skip” any tracks. Channeling at times an early Elvis Pressley, some early gospel, roots country, and even a little jazz, Embry’s contribution is the type of album that probably won’t get the commercial press it deserves, but is exactly why we write about music around here. He’s got that next level talent, imagination, and writing ability. Have a cigar… sip some Scotch… and enjoy the refined complexity of this fabulous Americana album.