album review

​Embleton - It Did Me Well

Released March 10, 2015
Dylan Sonderman
​March 10, 2015, marks the release of Canton-based band Embleton’s debut album, It Did Me Well. I had the chance to listen to a copy of the album in advance, and what a privilege it has been. Singer/songwriter Kevin Embleton and crew have achieved something special with this record.

For a debut, this album feels incredibly mature to me. Throughout the whole record, a steady, consistent sound shines through. Embleton’s music evokes acoustic, rock-n-roll, country, and folk in a pure and unabashed format. Each member of the band gives an excellent performance without overplaying. As with the musicianship, the presentation seems both humble and confident, both raw and refined. Guitarist John Finley produced the album and hit a sweet spot between studio quality and live emotion. That is, it sounds great.

The record opens with the title track. Several deftly intertwining layers of electric and acoustic guitar swirl around, above, and beneath Kevin Embleton’s passionate vocal delivery. The personal lyrics dealing with loss, faith, and individual growth are inspiring and uplifting to me. After this, the album takes a slightly more melancholy turn with the country-esque “Not Ready”. There’s some enjoyable harmonica throughout and some neat chord changes. I found the high note the vocalist hits near the end especially nice. This song also displays some of Jacob Yonkers’ stellar guitar soloing abilities, which are fairly abundant throughout the rest of the album. Overall, the first two songs are very rich and layered.

In contrast, the Willie Nelson cover, “Sad Songs and Waltzes”, is much more stripped down, featuring Embleton’s voice along with gentle acoustic guitar, minimal bass, and sparse lead guitar. But the trend does not continue, as “Leaving For Good” features driving basslines from Brandon Covey and soaring vocal harmonies.

“Only Begun” is another strong and memorable track. Every fill and harmony seems to come in just at the right time. None of the complementary elements linger long enough to take the attention off of Kevin Embleton's voice, though, until the very tasteful guitar solo leading into a section of lovely vocal harmonies. “Her Name Was Grace” utilizes drums and some ambient keys to set an interesting, almost dreamlike atmosphere, completed with more great singing. Wow.

After the song trails off, the album picks up momentum again with the rock-oriented “Punches”. This song in particular highlights drummer Matt Kurtz’s grasp of rhythm, timing and groove. The song also features plenty of lead guitar fills and an extended wailing guitar solo from Yonkers. After the solo, the energy dips down for just a moment before building right back up to a great climax. This one really stood out for me.

“She's Not There” was another highlight for me. The longest song on It Did Me Well, the track boasts grooving drums and percussion, an emotive solo, and really nice chord changes near the end of the tune. Closing track “Mountain Time” features saxophone and keys that take the track to a very uplifting, dare I say gospel, sort of place. As the final lyric of the album, “And sometimes the sun won’t come out…” trails off, I feel waves of an emotion I can’t quite place. Longing? Joy? Whatever it is, I’m grateful I was able to feel it from listening to this music.

The title track, "Punches", "She’s Not There", and "Not Ready" are the songs I find myself going back to again and again, though no track on the album really feels like a misstep. I think fans of Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes would really appreciate It Did Me Well. As a native of the same region of Ohio as the band, I’m really glad to hear such powerful and inspiring new music coming from here.  If they’re starting out this strong, I can only imagine the great music we have to look forward to from Embleton in the future.

85/100