The Emperors Of Wyoming
That is the trouble with time; it just slips away no matter what you do and before you know it the decades have passed. The story of The Emperors Of Wyoming began in the late 70s but only now in 2012 do the four contributors finally get together.
Fear not though, this is not a sad tale, when I tell you that one of the ‘Emperors’ is Butch Vig it should rest your mind that the intervening time has not been wasted. Presumably named after the Neil Young song, the four Emperors, Butch Vig, Phil Davis, Franklin Lee and Peter Anderson, all knew each other in the early days but despite being friends, they never quite got it together at the time to form a group.
This has been put right however with the forthcoming release of their eponymously titled debut, ten tracks of Americana tinged country-folk rock. Upon listening to the CD the Neil Young assumption seems to be justified, think the American big hitters, Petty, Springsteen, Dylan and you are in their ball park.
The Emperors however are aiming for far more than just riffing the greats, they want to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. As debuts go, this is a bold and pretty successful attempt. Vig has spent the best part of twenty years twiddling the knobs for a few relatively (ahem) successful acts as well as forming part of Garbage and knows how to produce a tune.
This is a story of four though, perhaps not the household names Butch Vig is (well, in this house anyway) but more than bit players in this American opus. Each man adds their own flavour and colour with vocalist Phil Davis’ voice carrying just the right level of gravitas for the job at hand.
Easing in gently with the wistful ‘The Bittersweet Sound Of Goodbye’ before ‘Avalanche Girl’ with “Radio Hit” written all over it steams in with the drive of a Tom Petty classic. Channelling his best Mick Jagger, Phil Davis carries the earnest ‘I’m Your Man’ with a cheeky swagger, albeit with a twinge of arthritis in the hips as he declares ‘I may be rusty, but I still run’.
‘Cornfield Palace’ and ‘Sweep Away’ are more traditional country affairs with subtle lap steel whilst ‘Brand New Heart Of Stone’ has a slightly sleazy undercurrent that sounds like Neil Young has stumbled onto the set of True Blood.
‘The Pinery Boy’ returns to the feel of ‘Avalanche Girl’, a driving rhythm and the return to the big American anthem The Emperors seem to be able to produce at will. There is however still a corner of the great American songbook reserved for blighty though with a cover of John Martyn’s Bless The Weather to round off the album in elegant style.
It has the slick production you would expect from a Vig release, going for the epic rather than the raw(hide) but the songs stick from the outset and it is at times hard to not picture the rolling plains of the great American outdoors. Which I guess is the aim.
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