Emily Nenni’s debut album is a delightful throwback to the kind of classic country that’s a rarity these days
‘On The Ranch’ is the debut album from California-born but Nashville-based singer Emily Nenni which with its ten tracks coming in at a shade under thirty-four minutes is short but perfectly formed. It’s an album of slightly old-fashioned classic country with Nenni’s voice channelling the likes of Dolly, Loretta and Tammy which makes for a refreshing and understated album.
Nine of the songs are written by Nenni and Mike Eli. There are lyrics that mention rhinestones, steers, pick-ups, rodeos, beer, barns and roosters – “new” country this isn’t. There’s also a feminist flavour to some of the songs – Nenni is a force to be reckoned with. As she herself says ‘I wrote a song about barrel racers (‘Can Chaser’) that’s not demeaning. It was a good way to start my first record because it has feminist themes’. The tenth song – the one not written by Nenni and Eli is an odd one – a cover of Abba’s ‘Does Your Mother Know’ a strange choice given that the duo have written some excellent songs that fit Nenni’s voice and personality perfectly – were they one song short or maybe it’s just a favourite song of Nenni’s?
The album’s produced by Eli and Alex Lyon at Laughing Heart Studio in Nashville TN and has a bright, clear stripped back sound although at times Nenni’s voice is double-tracked where it needn’t have been – her voice is strong enough without any reinforcing. On the album Nenni and Eli also play guitar and Lyon plays bass. They’re ably supported by Bradford Dobbs on drums and percussion and Eddy Dunlap on dobro and pedal steel. In fact it’s Dunlap’s virtuosity on the two traditional country instruments that give the arrangements depth and colour and that old-timey vibe.
‘On The Ranch’ is a strong debut album from Emily Nenni and whilst it has an old-fashioned flavour – a throwback to earlier times – you can imagine her and her band playing live in a honky tonk somewhere in the middle of nowhere with sawdust on the floor, pick-up trucks in the parking lot, line-dancing going on in front of the stage and the audience having the time of their lives. To quote from Nenni on the album’s liner notes: ‘Thank you to Santa’s Pub for being my family in Nashville, the place where I learned how to lead a band and learned what playing music with people should feel like – a darn good time’.