Emmaus - Closer Nearer

Tuesday 1st May 2001
Emmaus - Closer Nearer
Emmaus - Closer Nearer

STYLE: Celtic
RATING 6 6 6 6 6 6
LABEL: Independent
RRP: £4.99

Reviewed by Sue Rann

Another group getting back to their roots! Emmaus have consciously turned back to simpler songs for this album, all penned by the duo of Tony Ryce-Kelly and Ronan Johnson and all recorded at home. Like the little disclaimer labels that you find on lumpy handcrafted pottery, you are warned in the sleevenotes to "watch out for the squeaks and glitches - it's just furniture moving and things falling over. It's authentic man!" Despite this self-conscious covering of blushing rear ends, the production values are actually very high. The title track is beautifully simple, a heart's cry of worship and longing. Bassist Andrew Mahoney contributes a very impressive lead vocal here and his clear warm tenor is an intriguing start to the album. Best tracks? "Carry" is outstanding, its moody sure touch showcasing Joanne Johnson's throaty-but-waifish vocals. From the whole album, this is the one song that really sank its hook into my memory. Everything fits: melody, pace, backing, lyrics and vocals. The rest of the album struggles to measure up, but it's a close thing. Several songs on the album fail to stand out, but would probably work just fine in a worship setting (acetate masters and music are available). "You're Beautiful" and "Reach" are honourable exceptions, and also benefit from Joanne Johnson's vocals, which are strangely under-used (she takes the lead on only three out of the 11 songs featured). "I Receive You Lord" is an injection of brass-goosed energy in the form of a simple praise song. "Yeah Yeah Jesus Is Here" is a nicely different slant on the same type of song. "Out Of The Depths", a rework of Psalm 120, shows that Ronan Johnson (aka Rojo) has a delicate touch with the vocals. Overall, this is a decent album and grows on you with more playing. There are enough Irish whistles and Uillean pipes to convince without overdoing it and Emmaus are clearly having fun. It's sort of infectious.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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