Globe Hall Presents Vincent Neil Emerson with Johno Leeroy and Dylan Earl on Thursday, October 13th.
Vincent Neil Emerson is a torchbearer of the Texas songwriter tradition. He channels the straightforward truth-telling and resonance of his songwriting heroes in Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle into something fresh and distinctly his own. Where his 2019 debut Fried Chicken and Evil Women proved himself as one of the most reverent students of country and western musical traditions, his follow-up LP, the masterful Rodney Crowell-produced Vincent Neil Emerson, which is out June 25 via La Honda Records/Thirty Tigers, is a brave step forward that solidifies his place as one of music’s most compelling and emotionally clarifying storytellers. His songs are cathartic and bluntly honest, never mincing words or dancing around uncomfortable truths.
Raised in Van Zandt County in East Texas by a single mother of Choctaw-Apache descent, Emerson’s world changed when he first heard Townes Van Zandt’s music. “To hear a guy from Fort Worth say those kinds of things and make those songs was pretty eye opening,” the now 29-year-old songwriter says. “I had never heard songwriting like that before.” He’s spent the better part of the past decade honing his songwriting and performance chops playing bars, honky-tonks, and BBQs joint across the Fort Worth area. His first album Fried Chicken and Evil Women, which he wrote in his mid-twenties and came out on La Honda Records, the label he cofounded that now includes a roster of Colter Wall, Local Honeys, and Riddy Arman, is a snapshot of his growth as a songwriter and stage-tested charm with songs like “Willie Nelson’s Wall” and “25 and Wastin’ Time” expertly combining humor and tragedy.
Elsewhere, on “The Ballad of the Choctaw-Apache,” he sings of how in the 1960s the Choctaw-Apache tribe of Sabine Parish was forced to sell “180,000 acres of ancestral land” to the government, uprooting them from their home. Emerson pulls no punches in his narration of the historic injustice, channeling the essence of traditional folk songs. He sings, “Well you take away their home / And you claim what you don’t own/ Well I guess it’s just the American way.” Emerson explains the track: “This happened not too long ago and it affected my grandparents and my family directly. I’ve always strayed away from trying to write political songs, but this is more about human rights. For those people who were stripped of their land like that, it’s still tough.”
You can hear that no-frills approach on the barnstorming “High on the Mountain,” a bluegrass tune that highlights Emerson’s versatility as a performer and depth as a lyricist. On first listen, the track opens with upbeat fiddles and blistering guitar feels, but Emerson’s voice achingly sings of heartbreak, loss, and irrevocable change: “I pulled into Austin / ‘Cause Fort Worth ain’t the same.” Opener “Texas Moon” grapples with home after so many days away on tour: “I been missin’ home / But I just can’t ever stay / Well it don’t feel like ramblin’ / ‘Til ya take it day by day.” Emerson is never overly sentimental and across this album, he makes a point to just say how he feels in the most straightforward and real way he can.
“I think I’ve always gravitated towards artists that are honest about what they’re doing.” says Emerson. “It’s the most important thing because people have a chance to connect to a little more if you’re telling the truth.”
– 16+, under 16 admitted with a ticketed parent or guardian