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Since a chance meeting in a hostel in Barcelona in 2000,  the unique acoustic magic of Ember has delighted audiences all over the world – from California to Mexico, Ireland to Spain. Now based in Wales, where they have recorded all four of their albums, Ember has recently caused a stir at Broadstairs, Priddy, Glastonbury, Llangollen Fringe, Big Green Gathering, Warwick, Otley, Fishguard Folk Festival and Sesiwn Fawr, amongst other festivals, as well as folk clubs all over the UK.

The simple yet moving music centres around the miraculous blending of two very different voices: that of Welsh songstress Emily Williams, who also sails through the mix with her violin and sets up chunky rhythms with her nylon-strung guitar, and that of Rebecca Sullivan of Utah who fingerpicks a sparkling steel-string, and breaks out the harmonica for a song or two. . .  Recently the pair have been joined on select dates by virtuoso accordion player Jamie Smith (tunesmith of Welsh band Mabon), and Dutch world percussionist Job Verveijen.

You could call it contemporary folk – with an edge – and the group has been compared to Indigo Girls, The Be Good Tanyas, Simon and Garfunkel, Tracy Chapman, Michelle Shocked, Rickie Lee Jones and Dead Can Dance.

Engaging and humorous performers, Emily and Rebecca build a natural repartee with the audience - in true troubadour style. Hecklers are always welcome!

Available as a duo or trio, Ember can also offer inspiring songwriting workshops.

 

NEW REVIEWS!

www.folking.com

Open All The Doors (Salt & Slate Records, 2007) by Ember

Open All The Doors (Salt & Slate Records, 2007)
By
Ember

Ember are an acoustic duo performing largely original, acoustic material. Emily Williams hails from mid Wales, whilst Rebecca Sullivan is from Utah, USA; both contribute vocals and guitar, with Williams also playing violin, and Sullivan on clarinet and harmonica. Open All The Doors was produced by the redoubtable Welsh musician, Dylan Fowler, who also brings his guitar, piano and whistles to the mix. Add to this a handful of accompanying musicians with bass, kalimba, cello, accordion and duduk, and the duo emerges with the rounded sound of a full-on band. Additional character is provided by their resourceful percussionist, Job Verweijen, who lends some really funky rhythms with a list of percussive instruments that runs into double figures!

The harmonising voices of Williams and Sullivan are an attractive combination, blending the sweet and wistful tones of Williams with Sullivan's deeper, gently rasping burr that will draw inevitable comparisons with the Indigo Girls, though their often funky groove and close-knit harmonies might also draw comparisons with Australian band, The Waifs.

Their original material includes a few songs that lean heavily on traditional music; the jaunty melody of "A Murder Song," combined with it's storyline of lust-driven envy and murder is a delicious reflection on the traditional murder ballad genre. Likewise, the sombre ballad "Far From Home" or the lilting "Bad Guy Lullaby" bear traditional influences.

Elsewhere you are treated to a journey through various genres; the jazzy saunter of "Free Man" with its nimble fiddle, the percussion frenzy on the country-tinged "Mama Don't Worry," or the swinging ragtime overtones of "Nickel and Dime," being particularly admirable examples.

Aside from their original compositions, a stunning a cappella interpretation of Andy Irvine's "Blood and Gold" is the perfect showcase for the duo's vocal poise and the traditional "A Ei Di'r 'Deryn Du," sung in a combination of Welsh and English, is positively haunting with its resonating clarinet interludes.

Open All The Doors is a well-rounded album, with plenty to hold your attention and delight your senses. One imagines that, even when just performing as a duo, these girls can pack quite a punch!

 

Propergander Magazine

Hailing from deepest Wales (Machynlleth) and the US (Utah) respectively, Emily Williams and Rebecca Sullivan have together been delighting discerning audiences over five years and three albums with their quirkily individual brand of acoustic magic that’s been variously compared to Be Good Tanyas, Pooka and Indigo Girls. The girls’ striking and intuitive vocal harmonies and sparse but considered instrumental work create their personal magical world where feelings are conveyed with depth and sensitivity yet often also with an edgily whimsical sense of humour.  Ember songs may nod in the directions of home-grown nu-folk and Americana, but manage to retain their own distinctive, attractive, if occasionally idiosyncratic voice. Their simple yet mildly enigmatic poetry mostly expresses romantic desires and attendant complications, but this time there’s even a quasi-traditional murder ballad too! The duo’s augmented on this CD by (among others) Dylan Fowler and percussionist Job Verweijen, but skilfully and selectively so, with the result that the girls’ unique, intimate charm remains intact. This fabulous disc will, I’m sure, “open all the doors” for Ember.

 

www.netrhythms.com

Open all the doors and let the fresh air and the brilliant butterflies fly into your home! This sparky and utterly enchanting mixed-heritage (ie. Welsh and American!) female duo (Emily Williams and Rebecca Sullivan) has been wowing discerning audiences at festivals and folk clubs over the past five or six years; now four albums down the line, the lasses are still purveying their special and seriously cool brand of quirky acoustic magic that's been variously compared (and not only by me!) to the Be Good Tanyas, Pooka, Abbie Lathe and Indigo Girls.

I commented in a previous review that Ember's sound is defined by the piquant combination of the girls' striking and intuitive vocal harmonies and their sparse but considered instrumental work, elements which together create their own magical world where feelings are conveyed with depth and sensitivity yet often also with an edgily whimsical sense of humour. Ember songs may more than nod at home-grown nu-folk, acid-folk and old-time Americana, with an occasional stylistic shift in the directions of jazz or western swing, but the performers always manage to retain their own distinctive, if occasionally quite idiosyncratic voice.

The batch of new songs comprising the majority of Open All The Doors is particularly fine even by the girls' standards; couched in admirably simple (yet at times more than mildly enigmatic) poetry, the songs mostly express romantic desires (and the potential and actual complications arising therefrom), but they lighten the palette somewhat (only joking!) with a neo-traditional confessional (A Murder Song) and a quite heartfelt little political rant from Rebecca's hometown (Salt Lake City)! There's also a fond rendition of the traditional Welsh song A Ei Di'r Deryn Du (To My Dearest Love?), and an acappella take on Blood And Gold (the eastern European folksong here credited to Andy Irvine and J. Cassidy - well, it sticks closely to Andy's version at any rate).

As well as those characteristic, naturally inventive intertwining vocal harmonies, Rebecca and Emily again display their own wiry and subtly virtuosic instrumental skills (on guitars, violin, clarinet and harmonica), but on this new CD they're ably aided and augmented principally by "world percussionist" Job Verweijen (who makes a significant contribution to the textures throughout) and guitarist/pianist/whistle player (and duet vocalist on one song) Dylan Fowler. Five other musicians, including a bass player (Nathan Thomson), are brought in at various points, but there's never any sense of overkill and it's all extremely skilfully and selectively managed, with supreme clarity of studio focus, to the extent that the girls' unique, intimate charm remains upfront and beautifully intact throughout the exercise.

They have every right to be very proud indeed of this album, for it contains some really fine songs and spine-tingling performances; in particular, I loved Emily's Far From Home and Better Than Me, Rebecca's Northern Wind and her uncannily catchy and rousing Spade And The Hoe, and (for more than equality's sake) their joint composition which closes the disc, the intriguingly economic Bad Guy Lullaby. And a word of praise too for the environmentally-conscious digipack presentation and its attractive design and photography (I specially liked the cheeky pseudo-Winterset look of the booklet's sepia-tinted parlour-portrait!). This lovely disc will, if there's any justice in this world, "open all the doors" for Ember and bring them serious recognition as one of the most original and captivating of the more independent-minded acts on the scene.                                                                       David Kidman January 2008

 

 

 

"Truly wonderful, vibrant, earthy, sparkling..."   Fflur Dafydd

"We love your music!"   Vicky Swan and Johnny Dyer

   "Both voices are fantastic and move beautifully together..."   Bryony, The Demon Barbers

A new name to me was Ember. They are two talented multi instrumental girls with a varied repertoire of songs original and from both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps this is not too surprising as they are respectively, Emily Williams from Wales and Rebecca Sullivan from Utah, USA. They were a strong opening to the festival and the first main concert and we caught up with them the next day in the more intimate surroundings of the pub concert where they came over particularly well. Well worth looking out for.   Folk Orbit

Machynlleth duo Ember - Emily Williams and American Rebecca Sullivan - who like The Incredible String Band, Amazing Blondel, Tir Na Nog and Tyrannosaurus Rex, come from a proud line of quirky songwriters.  They turn out original, off-the-wall and highly individual songs with only the guitar and fiddle (bar one or two other instruments) for accompaniment, and just as you were wishing they'd put a stop to those vocal tricks that resemble a switchback ride, they suddenly swoop down to meltingly fine harmony lines that turn your knees to jelly.  They call in cellist, harper and vocalist Emma Bryden to add subtle touches, but the secret of a well-produced record is that you don't notice the differences - it just sounds more satisfying.  And this is a very well-produced CD indeed.  The girls are branching out and learning from a quiet performance style that is as soothing as Welsh summer vistas - but, like the mountain peaks, it can be hard, rugged, breathtaking and exhilarating.  Oh - the bonus track is well worth the wait!   Taplas Magazine

This is embarrassing!… Over the past five years the unique acoustic magic of this young Welsh-American duo has delighted audiences worldwide and caused a stir at many UK festivals – and yet every time I’ve managed to miss them! Now at last I’ve received this CD, their third, for review, and it’s made me even more impatient to catch them in action. Emily Williams (Spanish guitar, violin) hails from Machynlleth, and Rebecca Sullivan (steel-strung guitar) from Utah; both have strikingly different singing voices, which complement each other yet also blend curiously well: what a discovery! Ember’s music has been described as contemporary folk with an edge, and comparisons with Pooka, Indigo Girls, Abbie Lathe, Be Good Tanyas, Sun Also Rises and Roches (and that’s just the girls!) aren’t misplaced. It’s not “easy” music, often strange and wayward-sounding, but it’s at the same time it’s accessible and highly captivating; although it may take a while to reveal the full extent of its charms, it’s worth persevering. Though the instrumental palette be lean and sparse, every note, strum and stroke proves essential to the arrangement, as foil for the girls’ incredible voices and their boldly conceived harmonies that are more intuitive than they are “conventionally” constructed (the exception being a brief but attractive version of the traditional Sospan Fach). Sometimes, as on Soil, Afon Dyfi Lulllaby and Everything Must End, the effect is both spine-chillingly warm and glacial, a mix of emotional temperatures I can’t begin to explain – just listen and let the music permeate your soul! The songwriting is shared with an almost maddening equality between Emily and Rebecca, and both writers convey an acute sensitiveness and depth to their feelings that belies their often whimsical humour (which strikes me as somewhat similar to early ISB if not quite as surreal). Musically speaking, it’s Rebecca’s songs that display references apertaining to a wider stylistic ambit, with western-swing (Train Of Disdain) and smoochy jazziness (Abundance Blues, Profile) proving grist to her mill. There are times when I felt that the best songs were cluttered around the first two-thirds of the CD, but on further plays I still couldn’t find any weak tracks; it’s all relative, I suppose… I still want to hear more of this sparky and original duo while the Embers glow bright – and so will you I suspect.   Folk Roundabout

Ember are a Welsh based duo, Emily Williams hailing from South Wales and Rebecca Sullivan bringing in American folk influences form her native Utah. Their trademark complex harmonies and multi-instrumental talents of Emily and Rebecca are complimented by guest Emma Bryden’s cello to give a rounded sound.

Although billed as humorous eccentrics, on the whole this album shows a more serious, bluesy side to the artists. If there’s a theme to the album it’s one of destructive love –“I love you like an enemy, Loving you defensively” run lyrics from the first track, “The Ocean”. Longing for the attention of a disdainful one is explored in “Train of Distain”, an American folk style train song with vocal harmonies reminiscent of While and Matthews. The end of relationships is lamented in the somewhat pessimistic “Everything Must End” – maybe a reference to the Manic Street Preachers’ track “Everything Must Go”? I loved the Gypsy-style violin and the jazzy vocal harmonies in “Abundance Blues”, also the penny whistle in “Mystery”, a song about an unobtainable loved one. If you’re after eccentricity, have a listen to “Chandeliers”, an unfortunate shopper is palmed off with a mouse fur coat, amongst other things, but ends up quite happy with her lot. Listen out for the Secret Track, who says nobody ever puts one on their albums anymore? It’s very short and it’s about a 2 headed lady called Marge!

My absolute favourite track from this album, though, has to be the rendition of what’s possibly Wales’s most famous folk song “Sospan Fach”. One to sing along to when I see them on a festival stage somewhere soon!     Folking.com

Ember's previous album 'Land Under Water' has remained a firm favourite of mine ever since getting it a couple of years ago, and one of the many pleasant surprises in first listening to 'Spark' was to find that I liked this even more. Ember's third album sees them clearly going from strength to strength.

This is a tremendously impressive and enjoyable album. As before, the content is primarily songs written by the two main members - Emily Williams and Rebecca Sullivan. Their songs are consistently excellent and sometimes profoundly so, and these latest ones are some of their best to date, bursting with originality, deep emotions and fun. The beauty is not only in the songs themselves but also in the detail of the vocal harmonies and instrumentation, every bit of which seems to play a vital part in conveying the emotion of the song. There is no superfluous or mushy padding - everything is precise and essential.

Sometimes the two voices are working in conventional vocal harmony, notably in the excellent rendition of the traditional song 'Sospan Fach' as well as in sensitively selected parts of their original songs, and at other times they are each doing their own thing in a more free-form, intuitive way, interacting in a way that is 100% effective and that works according to the magical unknowns of music rather than the formal rules and structures.

As regards objective judgements on quality of vocals, instrumentation and musical arrangement this album is second to none, but most important of all is the abilty of the music and words to strike the heart and bring out the listener's emotions, from sadness to joy and laughter. This ability is a rarer quality still, and the only one that counts at the end of the day.

"Spark" is such a suitable title, thinking of the musical electricity that is so evident between the two individuals and the vital spark that is ever present.   NetRhythms

"The highlight of this year's Folk Week... Two wonderful women... an immensely talented singing/songwriting/playing-of-many instruments duo, who together with their new percussionist, Job, totally entranced me, and everyone else who heard them."           Isle of Thanet Gazette

In Eastwater marquee, Ember played to an enthusiastic audience;

their music wowed and impressed all present.   Duncan Simey Priddy Folk Fayre

             "Top acoustic duo"          Wrexham Leader

"Multi-instrumental virtuosity. . ."
             Nigel Wassell, Noiseville music journalist

"A young singer songwriting group who are rapidly making a name for themselves on the world stage. With roots in both Wales and the USA, Ember play original and idiosyncratic songs and music with a huge enjoyment factor!"
             Trouble Tree Folk Concerts

"A duo whose songs contain rich and vibrant harmonies to blend with their strikingly
different voices
."
  Norman Williams, The Cambrian News

This is a neatly packaged band, the feeling of self-containment and a unit that can up and go, and they regularly do: Spain, Ireland, Mexico, America and Holland. I recommend you check them out. . . Northern Wind is folk with a sexy makeover, harmonies, finger-picking and lilting fiddle and a jazzy drumbeat, yes they are very similar to our Rag Foundation when they were a folk band. . . A pleasing laidback band great for festivals and intimate gigs. . . This is a little gem if you like a modern slant on your folk music, sung well and played well.
             Chris Woodman, Noiseville Magazine

Ember were another enchanting discover this year, Emily and Rebecca are not only talented musicians, but are also just the right sort of lovely people who may come to WIT as artists, but don’t swan about being the big “I am,” they just get on with it, join in, and be a part of what is going on. We liked them, and they have acquired some very serious groupies.
             Women in Tune Newsletter

The magnificent three-girl setup that is Druidston's Ember opened the show, although, by their own admission, only one of their songs Train Of Disdain really fitted into the evening's Americana theme.

The perfect harmony vocals of Emily and Rebecca are integral to the Ember sound, as is their mastery of a capella.

And their often humorous take on men and the mundane (or is that one and the same?) ensures that they are always entertaining. Although they have lost their percussionist Nick, who has returned to the USA, Ember have gained the rich sonorous tones of Emma's electric cello fiddle.   The Western Telegraph

Songwriters Emily Williams from Machynlleth, and Rebecca Sullivan from Salt Lake City – Utah, perform their songs with rich and vibrant harmony, blending their strikingly different voices (Emily’s earthy and soulful and Rebecca’s more pure and light) to magical effect. Their imaginative guitar accompaniments range from delicately ornate to chunky-rhythmical, and Emily often adds her wonderfully lyrical violin. Rebecca also breaks out the harmonica for a song or two. Recently they are often joined by cellist Emma Bryden whose beautiful moody strings add another great dimension to the music. . . Emma tours and records with several eminent contemporary bands and with singer-songwriter Julia Jones, and her orchestral experience includes over 25 national and international orchestras. Her playing can be heard to great effect on Ember’s latest CD Land Under Water. Emily and Rebecca’s exceptionally fine songs, some written individually and some jointly, are characterized by stirring, memorable tunes coupled with lyrics that capture the essence of personal experiences in a way that readily communicates and strikes a chord with the listener. There are themes of missing one’s home, of reverence for one’s homeland, of passion and of philosophical vision. There are also lighthearted sketches of times on their travels and some of the wackiest humorous songs you’re ever likely to hear. . . Ember is an exceptionally bright up-and-coming act that deserves growing success and recognition. . . Moving and memorable songs performed with excellent musicianship and presented with Ember’s typical warmth, enthusiasm and humour.
            
Ian Gulley, aberGWERINfolk

A lovely evening with Ember and Atinuke who together captivated the audience with a soothing performance of storytelling and music. Nigerian storyteller Atinuke, now living in Newport Pembrokeshire wove an original epic tale of ancient times, full of contemporary resonance where the central figure Anna found herself caught between two cultures, two peoples and two worlds. Atinuke told of a symbolic north and south where Anna belonged at once to both and neither. This was interspersed with simply beautiful, soul-stirring music from Ember, a trio from south Pembrokeshire, on guitars, violin and percussion, with stunning vocals from Rebecca Sullivan and Emily Williams. The original lyrics, melodies and harmonies added a superb musical landscape to a moving and magical tale of a person striving for meaning and a sense of self in a life full of conflict, love and loss, and eventually realisation and forgiveness. Ember’s music has all the grassroots feel of folk with traditional instruments but was fresh, light, and drew from a myriad of influences from around the world, while their soulful vocals and melodies flowed between jazz, soul, traditional and just beautiful.
            
Siobhan Muller, Tivy-Side

 

For more information contact Emily or Rebecca: ember@embersong.com

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