To live in Ohio is to live in contradiction. Lake effect snow and heartbreaking athletics have stirred longings of less harsher climates. Yet, we are fiercely passionate when others point out our many heartbreaks and snowpocalypses. Ohio breaks our heart, but this Midwestern heartbeat is a part of us all, and while we may lust for sun soaked palm trees from time to time, we always return to our faithful lover. You are a bastard at times, but you’re our bastard.
It is in this contradiction of identity that Alt-Country rockers Embleton create tales of heartbreak and wandering. Spending much of his life in the buckeye state, creative force Kevin Embleton has released a solid reflection on what it means to wrestle with the narrative of home in the powerful It Did Me Well. “I feel restlessness both geographically and in my heart. I want to live a better story, and most of my songs revolve around figuring out what that means,” says Embleton. This is evident in the ten songs that make up the album. Many can relate to this sense of restlessness, which creates the most authentic albums. The most shining example of this is the title track “It Did Me Well”. This is a soaring Chris Isaack tune that both pummels and affirms the cliché that “it all works out in the end”. Leaving home to explore the great unknown, the song’s protagonist realizes that the same pain that drives him away also drives him back home. “It Did Me Well” tells the story of a man who leaves town to discover himself. He’s surrounded by a loving community, but he knows he’ll never find out who he truly is unless he gets away . . . . It does him well to get away for a season, and by the end of the story he finds himself back home, a changed man” explains Embleton.
“Not Ready” is the perfect tune if you are in to the less morose Ryan Adams catalog of songs. It comes complete with an Adams style harmonica and is sure to have you singing the chorus back to your speakers. “Her Name is Grace” is another tune if you enjoy Ryan Adams type heartbreak accompanied by slide guitar and organ.
The unexpected “Sad Songs and Waltzes” follows in the same lyrical tone. Originally a Willie Nelson tune, Embleton is able to sing with renewed country melancholy in his own Nelson type vocal quiver. Personally I believe more people need to have the courage to take on the works of the country legend. His style is a nice mesh to what this album is all about. It also pairs nicely with “Leaving For Good” where we find another song of relational heartbreak in which the lover is leaving and Embleton finds himself tied to a local railroad track to coax her to stay.
Rounding out the highlights of the album – in which there are many – is the upbeat country infused “Punches”. With Tom Petty swagger, the song is about the things we use to prop us up in hopes of fighting or impressing. What this song does so well is provide hope in the midst of living. It rings out like a Gospel proclamation and soothes the heavy burdens of everyday life. This might be the cornerstone of the album and the track that endures whatever legacy is to follow.
This is one of my favorite albums I have heard all year and am confident you will feel the same. If you are weary of fleeting studio-produced spectacles, then take heart. The majority of It Did Me Well was recorded in a living room of a house in Canton, Ohio. Fitting, because home is exactly where it will transport you. We here at Ear to the Ground strongly urge you to pick up your own copy. If you want to set your own price for a few of the tracks, check out Noisetrade or one of the following sites:
Website – www.embletonmusic.com
Also, Kevin recently recorded his first podcast about music and how it impacts us on the deepest level. Check it out here.