Singer/songwriter EmiSunshine has been writing surprisingly mature songs since she was five years old, but her latest album, “Family Wars” (Little Blackbird Records), might be her most serious one yet. It is, she says, her most personal.
Available now at http://theemisunshine.com/#ESFM
Produced by 4-time GRAMMY-winner Tony Brown and featuring Emi’s family band The Rain, “Family Wars” covers a range of subjects not ordinarily written or sung about by 15-year-olds—dysfunctional families, domestic violence, mass murder, freedom in America (and the lack of it in other parts of the world).
“The album is about working through different types of conflicts,” Emi said. “I’m just voicing my opinion about what I see going on in the world, but hopefully in a way that won’t offend. I’m looking at problems and trying to make something beautiful out of them.”
In a review, No Depression, the journal of Americana music, says “Family Wars” is an album that “establishes EmiSunshine as a strong creative force… someone bold and talented enough to tackle today’s issues while honoring yesterday’s folk traditions.” No Depression further calls Emi’s song “Jonas Black,” which deals with mass murder in America, one of “the most important statements made all year by any country artist of any age or level of acclaim.”
GRAMMY-nominated folksinger/songwriter Mary Gauthier says “Family Wars” is “beautifully sung and brilliantly written… These songs should be heard; they are a reflection of who we all are, today, in a world full of chaos, division, and uncertainty.” Multi-award-winning singer/songwriter Larry Cordle says the album “shows a level of maturity in Emi that I was not expecting… I am seriously impressed by these songs and this recording.”
The album’s title track is a portrait of a dysfunctional family, sung from the perspective of a young woman determined to find a better life. (“Sister’s out here livin’ in sin, Grandma’s on the dope again, and no one speaks to Daddy any more…”)
“I’ve been around a lot of different families, considering that I grew up in a small town,” Emi said. “For the song ‘Family Wars,’ I wanted to write about what I see people struggle with, and how you don’t have to be held down by other people’s mistakes.”
Indeed, “Family Wars,” the album, is about all kinds of mistakes, some of which can be fatal.
“Scarecrow” tells the story of a woman’s revenge on her abusive husband. “Politicians Dance” is a cynical look at elected leaders who take advantage of their people. “Oh, Caroline” is a conversation between a young woman and her dead brother’s ghost, ultimately revealing a dark family secret.
Steve Martin, 2019 IBMA Broadcaster of the Year and host of the radio show “Unreal Bluegrass,” says “EmiSunshine’s ‘Family Wars’ gives a clear signal that the rumors were true—she has arrived at that level of musical artistry that can longer be ignored. She is fabulous and real and powerful. ‘Family Wars’ is the proof.”
Despite its overall somberness, the album strikes an optimistic tone with “Same Boat” (which Emi co-wrote with her mother and with Autumn McEntire), a song that offers hope for the future, if more people could just learn to respect others with whom they disagree. Meanwhile, “Crimson Moon” is a lovely expression of self-confidence sung by a young woman who knows she will be fine, despite the end of a romance. (Yeah, I’m better off, all alone, a promise ring on my hand is still just a stone…”)
Like any healthy family, The Rain knows how to give and take, working together for the good of the whole. Though “Family Wars” is a collaborative effort, the ten songs and one bonus track are stripped to their bare musical elements, keeping the focus on Emi’s powerful vocals. Besides Emi, the band consists of her father, Randall Hamilton, on upright bass, bass guitar and vocals; her brother, John Hamilton, on acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals; and “Uncle” Bobby Hill on drums.
During the recording of “Family Wars,” several acclaimed guest artists lent their talent to the project. GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale co-wrote and provides vocals on the upbeat song, “There’s Got To Be More.” The McCrary Sisters sing background harmonies on both “Crimson Moon” and the bonus remix of “Jonas Black,” with Jeff Taylor (The Time Jumpers) on accordion. IBMA award-winner Justin Moses adds fiddle on “Oh, Caroline.” Kyle Jacobs co-wrote and plays piano on the exquisitely beautiful “Meanwhile In America,” about freedom—those who have it, and those who seek it.
“This is a song of thanksgiving for living in America,” Emi says. “It’s not conservative or liberal; it’s about appreciating what we have in this country, without being boastful.”
Rolling Stone once called EmiSunshine among “10 new country artists you need to know.” For anyone who has never heard her, there is no better introduction to this precociously talented teenager and her equally brilliant family than “Family Wars.”
“Family Wars” by EmiSunshine and The Rain is available through most digital platforms: http://theemisunshine.com/#ESFM
- Family Wars
- There’s Got to Be More (feat. Jim Lauderdale)
- Oh, Caroline (feat. John Hamilton)
- Crimson Moon (with The McCrary Sisters)
- Jonas Black
- Politicians Dance
- Same Boat
- The Ghost of Hank Williams
- Meanwhile In America
- Jonas Black (bonus, with The McCrary Sisters)