Emily Jane White

Victorian America

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AllMusic Review by

California-based singer/songwriter Emily Jane White’s windswept blend of bluesy, brooding folk and gothic Americana made for a heady 2009 debut that drew comparisons to midnight crooners like Jesse Sykes, Cat Power, and Nina Nastasia. For her sophomore release, the endlessly lonely yet undeniably lovely Victorian America, White sticks with the formula, and ekes out another quiet triumph. Her musical arsenal echoes her eternally haunted protagonists, and while softly strummed acoustic guitar serves as the wave on which each track is carried, it’s Jen Grady (cello), Henry Nagle (pedal steel), and Carey Lamprecht (violin) who call the tides in and out. White makes no bones about her love of darkness, as evidenced on opening number “Never Dead,” a lament for a successfully suicidal friend (“Just last night/Bad news/It blew right through me”). It’s a bold way to start off a journey, but one that dutifully weeds out the ambulance gawkers from the spirit seekers. The rest of Victorian America doesn’t disappoint. The languid title cut, a melancholy yet utterly compelling and cinematic ode to a Louisiana flood, drifts on by like an abandoned riverboat; the epic "Red Dress" crawls out of the desert like a lost track from Nick Cave’s No More Shall We Part; and gorgeous closer “Ghost of a Horse” feels oddly triumphant, despite the fact that the brokenhearted narrator’s “chest wants to cave in.”

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