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CD Review: Emma Cook – Manifesto
By Francesco Emmanuel - 10/23/2006 - 02:00 PM EDT

Artist: Emma Cook
Album: Manifesto
CD Review: I was very pleasantly surprised to receive this CD to review, not only have I heard of Emma Cook, but I also had the honor of sharing a stage with her one night at Free Times café, mid-November 2005. What struck me then was her confidence, her care-free singing, charged with wit and political satire, and last but certainly not least, her solid guitar playing.

Manifesto’ is Emma’s debut album, and it is filled with intricate vocal lines, layered with beautiful harmonies, intertwined with her exquisite guitar playing and beats with hypnotic rhythms.

At times Emma sings like she’s attacking the listener with her microphone, other times she softly harmonizes a melody line. Her guitar playing lays the foundation for each song, and she is backed up by Ian Yim on drums, bass and keys; David Yoon on djembe, congas and percussion and Adam Harendorf who wears many musical hats including guitar, sequencing and backup vocals. Other musicians who appear briefly include Brian Pickett and James Chapple.

Check out songs like ‘Polyester Nails’ which starts off as an a capella, the lyrics however are anything but innocent, and the groove is bloody infectious and while Emma whispers throughout the bridge, I distinctly hear djembe and congas, beating out this rhythm which gives the impression that any minute, this song is gonna explode.

Right after this comes ‘Waiting for blood’, which is a short, groovy folk/rock number. I really liked the finger picking style and transition of chords in ‘Travel Log’. The lyrics to ‘All I want; Want I all’ tells a tale of love, lust and treachery – it is brutally honest.

Emma’s formal vocal training began at an early age, resulting in Grade 9 at the Conservatory level, she took a year of guitar lessons in her early teens but since then she developed her own unique percussive style of playing. She had the choice to pursue a career in the classics, but chose a degree in Philosophy instead.

Emma began playing solo in 1999 and founded her own label Emmazing Records in the summer of 2003, on which she released her ‘Manifesto’. She wrote and co-produced all the songs on the album, and the title track has been receiving radio play from Waterloo’s CKMS-FM and GidaFolk Radio.

Emma has played at various venues and prestigious events across Toronto and the GTA including Indie Week, September 2004; Paragon’s Singer/Songwriter competition, December 2004 (Emma snagged 1st place at that one) and Canadian Music Week, March 2006. She also puts on her own shows for various causes including Redwood Women’s Shelter.

I don’t know what it is about Canadian singer/songwriters, but I’ve yet to hear a horrible folk artist and Emma is right up there with the best of them

Emma already has plans for another album and tour, and I for one cannot wait to see her play live again.

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