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CD REVIEW: Frank Emerson, "Dear Sarah Featuring The Flag Of Our Fathers"
By David Lockeretz - 01/17/2003 - 03:27 AM EST

Artist: Frank Emerson
Album: "Dear Sarah Featuring The Flag Of Our Fathers"
CD Review: They just don't make 'em like this anymore.

It seems almost impossible that an artist like Frank Emerson could exist in a day and age such as this, when a show of emotion is seen as a sign of weakness and indifference and hipness are considered interchangeable, when record labels view unique artists as liabilities rather than assets. Frank Emerson knows the value of a good story. He refuses to believe that tradition has lost its place in a world where thirty-five year old housewives run red lights in their Expeditions while simultaneously complaining to their broker about the maturity of their husband's 401(K) on their Nokia and to their children in the back seats about their scores on the latest standardized test at their National Blue Ribbon school of attendance.

Long story short: Frank knows how to sing songs that matter, that were written out of artistic expression, not to provide MTV with a canvas on which to plaster as much total square footage of bare female skin as possible.

On "Dear Sarah", Emerson has shed a substantial amount of pop influence that informed his previous release, "Safe in the Harbor". The result is a more traditional sounding folk album informed with some forward looking moments. On "Shelter", the tasteful, Eric Clapton-esque electric guitar adds dimension. Spoken-word introductions to some of the tracks add to the sense of theatrics.

The true miracle of this CD is how it manages to be melancholy without being nostalgic; joyful without being sugary. On the Dixieland-influenced "She's Gonna Marry Me", a man rejoices after his ninety-fifth marriage proposal to the same woman is accepted. "Dark Eyed Molly" has a proud, yet subtle parlor song feel to it, and "Supermarket Wine" is a bittersweet recollection of love that ended too soon. One of the most moving songs is "Waltzing on Borrowed Time", a testament to the inevitability of change and the importance of leaving things behind with grace.

There are a few places where the songwriting could be tighter. The opening track, "Flags of Our Fathers", despite an honest, strongly worded patriotic rhetoric, repeats itself too many times, and "She's Gonna Marry Me" seems to have one bridge too many.

But if every album ever released could claim to only have so few flaws, the world just might be a better place. I have the feeling that Frank Emerson will do all he can to make it so.

For more information about Frank Emerson, visit www.frankemerson.com.


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