One of the songs on independent country artist Emily Scott Robinson’s full length debut album “Traveling Mercies” is called “White Hot Country Mess.” This album is ANYTHING but that, in a stunning debut that announces her talent to the world.
Robinson, a North Carolina native, shows off her incredible songwriting throughout the 12 songs on “Traveling Mercies,” with lyrics about love, loss, nostalgia, death and other real life emotions that modern country music seems to be missing today. Aside from her songwriting, Robinson’s singing is just as strong, putting her all into her vocals on every track.
When she sings about reliving a sexual assault in the gut-punching standout track “The Dress,” you almost want to believe it actually happened to her, a feeling hard to capture. The sparse accompaniment on the song, mostly just an acoustic guitar, only adds to the power of the song.
Sexual assault can often be a difficult subject to address from a musical standpoint. To her credit, Robinson doesn’t shy away from how hard the repercussions can be. In the song, the narrator ponders if the assault was because of the dress she was wearing or if it had to do with the wine. This starkness is both real and nerve-wracking. The song is one of the best songs to address the topic, and hands down the best song on an album full of great songs. It is impossible to forget.
Other standout tracks include the Native American revenge tale “Shoshone Rose,” the tender love song “Better With Time,” the escape of an abusive relationship in “Run,” the subject of the death of a loved one in “Overalls,” and the closing title track.
Robinson brings her stories to life with the help of some stellar musicianship, using no more than acoustic guitar, fiddle, light electric guitar, simple drums, and mandolin.
The added instrumentation gives the songs more depth than her “Magnolia Queen” release, which featured Robinson with nothing more than her guitar. While the songwriting is still the star of this release, the added instrumentation make these songs come alive. “Shoshone Rose” is one song where the fiddle adds to the song. The instrument adds more emotion than just a guitar would be capable of.
Robinson has created one of the best full length debuts albums from any country artist in recent memory. Her writing and singing are an impressive combination that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. Her album can make one laugh and cry. While the mainstream country scene may have no idea what it is doing, still seemingly trying to get out of the bro-country era, Robinson doesn’t have that problem. She knows what she’s doing, and it is an incredible effort. This could very well be the best album in country music in 2019. It is an album that need to be heard.