‘In Embudo’ is the debut release from Mary Elizabeth Remington which was recorded as-live in a small house in Embudo (New Mexico) with the assistance of guest musicians James Krivchenia (percussion and engineer), Adrianne Lenker (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Mat Davidson (steel guitar, acoustic guitar, electric bass, vocals).
The album opens with `All Words` after a 1,2,3,4 count in we have an almost spoken word oration over shuffling percussion and a gently plucked guitar rhythm. The lyrics become fairly repetitive and the music seems to head off at a tangent towards the end. A delightfully captivating introduction. We have harmonic acapella vocals shared throughout `Dresser Hill` with an underlying guitar on this tale of a visit of somebody who maybe was once a potential suiter but is no longer. Although the narrator doesn`t seem to know who they want, they are certain this person isn`t the one that`s for sure and sees their relationship as more of a friendship.
`Mary Mary` is another harmonious offering which became almost a nursery rhyme in its delivery before being curtained as the vocalists end up in fits of laughter before the remainder of the number seems to be reeled backwards. There`s a kind of trippy ambience during this reminiscence of growing up on `Fire` shared over a melodic guitar tone and hand tapped percussion.
`Green Grass` is a further reflective track that is sung without musical accompaniment. We have a deep resonating percussive drumbeat that leads us through `Holdfast` which becomes quite spellbinding as the singer`s deeply rich vocal joins in and relates a tale of holding things together, maybe. We even have some whistling added to the mix at the very end of the number.
`Tuesday` begins solo before harmonising over a baseline of gently shared guitar chord riffs. There`s a sort of eulogy shared on `Mother`, a homage or form of praise to a mother who is not only a parent but a teacher and so much more.
`Wind Wind` has a haunting ethereal pedal steel that floats through the number adding a heart-breaking poignancy along with some harmonious vocals towards the end. We enjoy the sound of a flowing stream or waterfall on `Water Song` which is just what it says in the title. Male and female vocals join in as the track progresses. The addition of a picked guitar ensures a more melodic texture as it closes out.
`Wooden Roads` is another offering that`s counted in and is probably the most instantly accessible piece on the album as it wallows in a dream like reverie.
When I initially listened to `In Embudo` I thought nah it`s too minimal but thank goodness I persevered and although the lyrics seem quite simple they have a kind of poetic charm about them.
Mary Elizabeth Remington has a deeply rich reverberating vocal that is at times part Joni Mitchell, part Patti Smith and part Judy Collins but all Mary Elizabeth as in distinct and utterly unique.
The album itself has that calm, comfortable and relaxed vibe about it and put me in mind of `The Texas Campfire Tapes` by Michelle Shocked and the way that was recorded.
It`s a stunning listen for a debut offering and if this singer never records again, which we hope is not the case, it’s a wonderful legacy to point to.
Rating 9 / 10