Emma Beau’s name is familiar to those who have paid attention to Australia’s country music output over the past few years. Beau is a multi-instrumentalist and singer who has played with several other artists including Kasey Chambers. Beau has released her own music in the past, but never an album until this year.
Beau’s self-titled debut features eleven songs; one is a cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and the others were written by Beau. It doesn’t take long to understand why she might have waited a while to release an album: to make sure all the songs were, well, perfect. It is sometimes said that an album is ‘all killer, no filler’. Admittedly that expression usually applies to albums from a different genre of music … but the label certainly fits here. Beau’s ten songs are as beautifully constructed and executed as you’d want on any album, but almost astonishingly so for a debut, and not astonishingly at all when you remember that Beau has been developing her skills of all types – instrumentally, vocally, as a writer – for several years and in the company of highly accomplished artists. The standard that artists like Chambers set – the standard that is set, actually, by Australian country music artists generally – challenges everyone around them to rise to meet it, and Beau has done that splendidly.
A shallow listening of Emma Beau will suggest that the album is not entirely country – that the musical style edges towards indie rock, perhaps, or sixties rock, and certainly there’s folk there too. But a closer listening reveals the country elements in all the songs Beau has written: a musical element here, a lyrical turn there. No doubt Beau has many influences to draw on but like a thread sewn throughout a quilt, she’s made sure country is there throughout.
Beau is a storyteller who is unafraid to show herself to the listener, and as a vocalist she backs that up in every single line. She has a magnificent voice and she doesn’t hide behind it – it’s a tool and it’s a flamboyance, whatever the song requires. The voice serves her, and the song, not the other way around (sometimes great singers can seem to be almost in awe of their voices, letting those voices getting away with things that in the end don’t benefit the song).
That inherent musicality may be informed by – or have informed – Beau’s ability with several instruments; only she knows. But this is an album that offers so much to those who know music as well as those who simply want to be entertained. The time Beau has taken to make this album, and the care she has shown with it – along with producer Michael Carpenter – have resulted in a gift for audiences of all types of music, and a valuable addition to the country music canon.
Emma Beau is out now.