Fiddler & Folksinger Emerald Rae brings the duo of strings and song to a new plateau with mesmerizing dexterity. Hailing from the historic fishing community of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Emerald Rae is both a small-town girl steeped in cherished folk traditions and a world-class artist breaking new ground with inventive fiddle effects. A degree in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music in Boston gave her the freedom to cast a wide creative net, while her grit and intensity was earned during her twenty-year career as a powerhouse fiddler and dancer. Rae embarked on her first journey into songwriting and multi-instrumentalism with If Only I Could Fly [May 2013], featuring her prowess on fiddle, vocals, guitar and the crwth [an ancient Welsh fiddle, pronounced “krooth”], and took to the road from the Canadian Maritimes to Shanghai. Single and video Blackbird [April 2017], a droning, groove-heavy version of the traditional Scottish Ballad, showcases her signature ornamented vocals and robust fiddling accompanied by a laid back djembe.
Zeroing in on the synergy of voice and fiddle, the self-produced self-titled album Emerald Rae [May 2018] offers a rare scope of vision and reveals her depth as an artist. Rae’s extraordinary chops transform the fiddle into anything from bagpipes to flamenco or electric guitar, slap bass or ukulele. Her direct and intimate voice, alternately high and honeyed then gutsy and soulful, encompasses both wind and sea, animal and etheric. Though intended as a minimalist introspective album, Rae pulls of an impressive level of variety. Her take on a sea shanty, “Deep Salt Sea” kicks off the record with edgy soundscapes, “When the Silvery Moon Comes Out to Play” drives with angsty power chords, “Inkwell” paints an intimate portrait of an awkward bookworm, and “Worlds Away” shouts from the rooftops about income inequality with foot percussion and a wailing old-timey fiddle. This collection of homespun vignettes will take you on a journey and leave you spellbound.
Emerald Rae is that rare artist who combines musical dazzle with down-home stage charm, inviting audiences deep inside her music. She moves crowds from ancient reel to urgent modern song with a spontaneity so organic it’s easy to miss how difficult it is to master. What’s her secret? She likes her audience, meets them eye-to-eye, and they respond in kind, with affection, rapt attention, and delight. Whether introducing a muscular set of old fiddle tunes, or an intimate original song, they lean forward, eager for the next adventure. And she never disappoints. Emerald Rae owns the stage in the finest way, by sharing it with her fans. She does not perform at them, but with them––and they adore her for it.
— Scott Alarik
Music journalist, author, host of Folk Tales on WUMB public radio.