Ember Schrag
The Sewing Room (CD)
Single Girl Married Girl / Edible Onion July 10, 2012

-Jephthah's Daughter
-Sutherland
-My Brothers Men
-La Maria
-I Ain't a Prophet
-In the Alley
-Frauleh Jekketheka
-The Sewing Room
-Dark Lion Lover
-Your Words
-Houston
-April Night

Ember Schrag: vocals, acoustic guitar
Gary Foster: drums
Jonah Sirota: viola
Greg Talenfeld: fender bass, electric guitar, lap steel
P.G. Six: piano, vocals
Philip Gayle: acoustic guitar, mandolin
Alex McManus: electric guitar
Max Johnson: upright bass
Amy Denio: clarinet
A.J. Mogis: pump organ, percussion
Jay Kreimer: homemade instruments

Recorded by A.J. Mogis at ARC in Omaha, NE
Additional recording by Mitch Rackin at Seaside Lounge in Brooklyn, NY
Analog Mixing by Greg Talenfeld at OK Records in Nyack, NY
Mastered by Carl Rowatti at Trutone in Nanuet, NY
Photos and Collages by Jay Schleidt, Painting by Elizabeth Downing, Drawings by Ian Pyper, Design by Bryan Day, Hand made version (edition of 100) made by Edible Onion

Reviews:

(Aiding & Abetting) More minimalist folk from Schrag, who is rapidly becoming one of the most proficient purveyors of that sound. The songwriting here is first rate, and there's just enough oomph in the production to really bring them to life. Quite a fine effort. - Jon Worley

(New York Music Daily) Ember Schrag writes what could be called Great Plains gothic songs. She’s a nimble guitarist, a gripping storyteller, clever lyricist and a strong, dynamic singer with a direct, clear, matter-of-fact voice. She originally hails from Nebraska and now makes New York her home. And while she’s far from unknown in the dark folk demimonde, her writing transcends that genre: she’s one of the most individualistic and interesting songwriters in any style of music. She and her excellent band are at Cake Shop on May 11 at 11 PM; cover is $8. Her 2012 album, The Sewing Room--streaming at Bandcamp--is a quiet, disarmingly intense masterpiece. Violence and death are everywhere, yet seldom seen: the way Schrag lets her images unwind, usually after the fact, makes them all the more haunting. The opening track, "Jephthah’s Daughter," sets the stage, a cruelly allusive tale of frontier justice (or more accurately, an imitation of it), Schrag’s elegant fingerpicking mingling with Jonah Sirota’s viola. "Sutherland" is no less chilling, a murder ballad as nonchalantly disturbing as anything A.M. Homes or Joyce Carol Oates ever wrote, the viola again adding a plaintive edge. Alex McManus’s ominously tremoloing guitar lines and Gary Foster’s misterioso brushes on the drums propel the surrealistically torchy, slowly swaying betrayal anthem "My Brothers Men." "La Maria" works a skeletal acoustic riff up to a more country-tinged chorus fueled by Greg Talenfeld’s lapsteel, Schrag contemplating how troubled people so often draw you in, not only “Because their seeping problems overtake you like the ending of the day.” Schrag goes back to a slow swing groove on the brooding, metaphorically loaded seaside tableau "I Ain’t a Prophet": it reminds a lot of early-zeros Marissa Nadler. A mashup of Old Testament and pulp novel imagery set to a distantly menacing oldtime swing tune, "In the Alley" imagines Scripture not as an opiate but as something from the other side of the narcotic spectrum. "Frauleh Jekketheka" is as funny as it is redemptive, an escape anthem told not from the point of view of the escapee but by one of the rednecks she was running from, Amy Denio’s moody clarinet pairing off against Philip Gayle’s lithely dancing mandolin. Schrag’s casually wounded vocals echo Rasputina‘s Melora Creager on the title track, possibly the only song ever written about being tortured by angels. "Dark Lion Lover" is the album’s most opaquely atmospheric, jazz-inflected number, Sirota’s acidic, resonant lines contrasting with Schrag’s distantly seductive delivery. The austere, bitterly aphoristic "Your Words" begins as the most traditional song here and then picks up as Schrag and Talenfeld gnash their guitars a bit. P.G. Six’s piano and Jay Kreimer’s homemade instruments add ghostly ambience to "Houston," a surreal portrait of alienation and estrangement. The album ends on an unexpectedly optimistic note with "April Night," Schrag’s gently lilting vocals evoking Laura Cantrell as she snatches what could be victory from the jaws of defeat. This is one of the five or six best albums ever to appear on this page over the past thirty months or so--and the icing on the cake is that the rest of Schrag’s equally intriguing back catalog is also up at Bandcamp to sweep you off into a world that in its own strange way looks dangerously like this one. - delarue

(Philadelphia City Paper) Nebraska-born Iowan Ember Schrag can do the lilting, angelic thing, lifting her voice to the heavens in syllables of easy bliss. But she knows: The devil's down deeper. Most of the time she's strumming and swaying in the middle range, where her bluesy lamentations are the most striking. "I had a peppermint stuck in my throat," she sighs. "I had an idea of love as something that people owe." Informed as much by her family's Christian zealotry as her own independent studies into poetry, the lyrics on The Sewing Room — to be released soon on Philly's Edible Onion and Single Girl Married Girl labels — have a wise, oracular quality. It's all murky and moody, but just concrete enough to get you wondering. - Patrick Rapa

(Monsieur Délire) You know why I love reviewing music? Because once in a while, I get a record like this one in the mail, out of nowhere, and its sheer beauty just blows my mind. I can’t even remember who sent me this... the artist? Public Eyesore? (I see she released an album on PE’s CD-R imprint eh? in 2010, which I missed out on somehow.) Anyway, Ember Schrag plays alt-folk songs with poignant lyrics and adorable instrumentation. Schrag is the female answer to Patrick Watson and Barzin. She also has a little something of Joanna Newsom and Laura Gibson. A phenomenal talent that will brighten my whole day, and many more days to come. - François Couture

(Lazy-I) Worth it if only for the perfect jewel of "Your Words." -Tim McMahan


(Centipede Farm) If you must buy only one album this year that has both mandolin and atonal homemade instruments made out of odd pieces of metal on it, make it this one. If you caught the Jephthah’s Daughter four-song CD-R on Eh? you knew that Ember was headed in an ever richer, more distinctive direction to embrace her unique qualities as an artist and personality, and The Sewing Room feels like the fully realized arrival of an honest and very real artistic vision from this enigmatic, hard-working folk singer-songwriter playing sultry, bucolic cowgirl-swing-meets-chanteuse songs informed by peculiar life experiences and a unique mystical take on obscure corners of the Bible. Longtime drummer Gary Foster and an all-star cast of friends turn in top-notch, tastefully restrained performances lending color and shading while keeping Ember’s enviable vocal and acoustic guitar skills and evocative songs firmly in focus. Release date is set for the end of this month or the start of July perhaps, and can be picked up from Single Girl Married Girl, or pre-order the 100-copy special edition in handmade art booklets right now (reports are they’re going fast) from Edible Onion. - Charles Hoffman

(Babysue) The most fully-realized release yet from Iowa's Ember Schrag. We were immediately hypnotized by Schrag the first time we heard her music. She's been working diligently over the past few years...both as a solo artist and with her 'other' band Office Park. Ember isn't laying around waiting for a big break. She's been playing all over the country for the past three years slowly but surely growing her fan base by giving folks what they want...cool credible pure music. If you've never heard her before, this young lady has a sound that is similar to classic artists like Suzanne Vega and Linda Draper. She writes remarkably warm and memorable songs that feature cool resilient qualities...personal, genuine lyrics...and a voice so precise and inviting that you can't help but be pulled into her musical universe. On The Sewing Room Ember invited several friends/ associates to offer some support. The tasty backing support gives her music extra zest and personality. We love the fact that Ember is somewhat of a mystery...probably because she doesn't seem to be seeking that sort of fame in her life. This may very well end up being the album that all future Schrag releases will be compared to...it's an obvious pivotal high point of what is certain to be a long and intriguing career. The lyrics in these songs are exceptional. Intelligent killer cuts include "Jephthah's Daughter," "My Brothers Men," "I Ain't A Prophet," "Dark Lion Lover," and "April Night." The album is also being offered in a limited edition handbound book...but there are only 100 of these so they've probably already sold out. TOP PICK. - dONW7

(Lincoln Journal Star) Ember Schrag, a key fixture on Lincoln’s music scene for several years, has moved to Brooklyn to pursue her career as a singer/songwriter. She’ll be back in Lincoln Saturday to perform at the Bourbon Theatre, bringing along and locally releasing her gorgeous new CD, The Sewing Room. Recorded by A.J. Mogis at ARC in Omaha, “The Sewing Room” is an intimate affair -- you can hear Schrag’s fingers sliding on the strings of her acoustic guitar on several songs. But it’s far more than a me-and-my-guitar recording as she’s joined by drums, viola, electric guitar, lap steel, piano, clarinet and pump organ across the 12 beautifully arranged songs. All the extra instruments complement the guitar/voice combination at the song’s center while giving the richness and variety. As for the songs, some, like “Sutherland” are explicitly about Nebraska, others drop references to the Interstate and rattlesnakes and most are rooted in a quest for spirituality and meaning derived from Schrag’s upbringing in western Nebraska by “militant Christian” parents. There’s a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus on the bluesy “In the Alley;” references to Seraphim on the quiet, steel-inflected title cut, an opening take on “Jephthah’s Daughter;” and others songs laden with symbols and personal reflections that go way beyond the standard singer/songwriter themes. From start to finish, Schrag’s voice is pure and beautiful, sometimes breathy, sometimes flying upward, always in service of the heart of the song. This is one superb CD. “The Sewing Room” is beautifully packaged as well, with contributions from three artists on the cover and booklet, making this one of the increasingly rare times that a physical product is a must-have. Grade: A - L. Kent Wolgamott

(Dead Angel) Nebraska folk singer / guitarist Ember Schrag's sound and sensibility can be traced back to the sparse, haunting feel of Leonard Cohen's first few albums -- I doubt it's accidental that "Jephthah's Daughter" resembles a gender-reversed version of "Song of Isaac" -- but she also has a lot in common with Kristin Hersh, another purveyor of highly emotional and deeply personal songs framed within a minimalist country-folk idiom. (Like Kristin, she also has a background / personal history that occasionally gets people distracted from her musicianship.) This album is essentially an expanded version of the JEPHTHAH'S DAUGHTER ep she released on Eh? in 2010, with new versions of the ep's original four songs and eight new ones, re-recorded with her long-time drummer Gary Foster and a swank stable of guests from the underground improv scene (including Amy Denio Alex McManus, Philip Gayle, and instrument builder Jay Kreimer, among others). The vibe on this album (and here I'm going to date myself) reminds me a lot of the second Violent Femmes album, HALLOWED GROUND, in its combination of folk and avant-garde sounds and themes revolving around spirituality and its place in the modern world. This is much more subtle and subdued, though, which is interesting, given the improvisational talent on the album. The additional players add plenty of interesting background textures to the songs, but most of the time everything is squarely focused on Schrag's enigmatic vocals and acoustic guitar. My personal favorite is the sparse, hypnotic "Frauleh Jekketheka," but everything on this album is excellent. Viddy well, my troubled li'l children of teh internets, viddy well: this is how good albums used to be made before the music industry started thinking how artists look is more important than how they sound. The first hundred copies come as part of a hand-bound illustrated lyrics book. - RKF

(Terrascope) Ember Schrag was adopted by militant Christians as a child, and this terrifying upbringing informs much of her work, including the lyrics on her debut album "The Sewing Room." A series of portraits of life based on voice and acoustic guitar, each song is decorated by a small number of other instruments, such as piano, cello, Leslie'd guitar, etc. Most of the opening cuts are slow and gentle, but the mood turns country & western for 'La Maria' amd 'I Ain't A Prophet,' while 'In The Alley' merges jazz with Sheryl Crow vocals. The title track is a haunting meditation on solitude, while 'Your Words' covers the territories of sin. Closing cut 'April Night' is short and strange. For sheer chutzpah in the face of a vile and oppressive religion this solo artist's offering should be lauded, and there is more than a hint of melody in the music, not least on the penultimate cut 'Houston,' which may be the album's highlight.

(Foxy Digitalis) Decades from now--or maybe in just a few years, given our parabolically reverse-telescoping media cycle--musicologists will attempt to crystallize our current era of American folk music and Americana.  This is their job, of course, although they’ll have their hands full given the unending stream of recordings and documentation made these days. There will be warring factions arguing over how much noise, tape culture, and other experimentalism and outsider music merit study in the canon and progression of Americana, the motivation and methods being essentially folky, although the results are vastly different aurally. But although it seems like scholars have a comparatively easy job with folk music, actually it would be quite a complicated web to untangle. Late-capitalist folk scholars will start by cataloging how digital advances and social factors will have allowed for a huge amount of music to sort of play with the corners of the folk tradition, pulling at its edges like a pet kitten gnawing on a frayed old blanket. They’ll uncover lost small-run cassettes, CD-Rs buried in cardboard boxes posing as well-adjusted ex-CD-Rers’ end tables, and track down hard drives with x-th generation digital dumps of songs that may never have been heard by anyone beyond a few anarchist-bookstore employees. They’ll do everything they can to fill in the picture. When all this comes to pass, I suspect the archetypal American folksinger of the aughts may resemble Iowa’s (formerly Nebraska’s) Ember Schrag. Her plaintive, seraphic voice is unflinching as it catalogues the dark, perhaps even imagined corners of life. You wonder what could have given this person these stories, how they’ve been twisted in how many minds, and whether they even happened. Above all you realize that this is someone singing who has lived a life--the thing any person, singer or not, is trying to communicate, its content, meaning, importance--but Ember Schrag captures lightning in a bottle with swelling melodies and couplets like: “Jepththah’s daughter / who was pure as water / he poured her out.” As in this year’s excellent Bunwinkies LP, there’s a doggedly innocent beauty channeled by Ember Schrag, a beauty in watching things crumble that exists in even the most jovial folk song, over and over conveying something that feels most essential. -Travis Bird

(The Sound Projector) Lavishly presented CD of widescreen American yarns (pun intended). Held together by the thread (ahem) of Schrag’s crystalline, melancholy vocals and clean finger-picking. The relaxed backing instrumentation--all played scrupulously well, you can’t hear any joins-- is burnished to a rich, welcoming lustre, like a comfy well-used leather armchair. Or a smiling old man with a bag of traditional sweets, a briar pipe, and a face made from a well-used leather armchair. This consummate, mellow and melodious folksy (not a spelling error) music, with many lilting fiddles and softly brushed drums, provides the backdrop for songs primarily of love and loss. Many archetypal American activities and symbols are delineated lyrically. People sit in saloons, there is cherry pie, cars are driven, people cross the road, other people leave for the coast.* The old-time Jesus and God of rural America are invoked. Indeed, although recorded in New York and Nebraska there are hints of the Southern Gothic milieu of Flannery O’Connor in the songs. Likewise the lyrical setting is a slightly fevered mix of road-movie, modern quotidian and idealised Americana. Houston is referenced in one song title and the setting and treatment of the maritime locale in another--‘I Ain’t A prophet’--could be compared and contrasted to Houstonian Jandek’s coastal ramblings on ‘Point Judith’ from Six and Six. There alienation and loss inform a thorough deconstruction of lyrics and song structure. The Sewing Room is by contrast quite traditional, even if that tradition leads us to the recent rather than deep past, a microcosm of pop-cultural concerns and tropes and quite poppy in execution. A lot of these songs are rather catchy, and they clearly are crafted songs, starting life in a singer-songwriter mode, honed in performance, fleshed out in the studio with sensitive expanded arrangements. The overall tonal gestalt is similar to a certain type of American indie movie, some quirk leavened with sentiment and generally rather accessible. There’s probably some Indie rock in there as well. Personally, I instinctively balk at such an approach. But then again, my idea of a pleasant ditty errs more along the lines of Frenchmen singing about toilets (c.f. Red Noise). However, students of Americana and fans of more conventional pop and folk-rock song-forms may well find things to engage and enjoy here. *Led Zeppelin contributed their take on that particular mythological scenario in ‘Going to California.'
-Thomas Shrubsole

(SLUG) Ember Schrag = Laura Gibson + early Patty Griffin + Mark Kozelek. To write compelling songs and garnish them with nuances of subtle instrumentation takes a delicate balance and skill. Ember Schrag seems to really understand this, and works hard to present her songwriting as big-league caliber, and it’s working. Executing her vocal melodies with a classic timbre that emulates some folk greats—and also some indie darlings on the scene—she’s assembled a wonderful team of musicians to assist her in this endeavor, including Alex McManus (Vic Chesnutt, Lambchop), Amy Denio (Billy Tipton Memorial Sax Quartet, all-around badass) and others of a similar golden caliber. It’s clearly the songs that are on display here, as Schrag’s storytelling is a little tortured and sometimes ugly/beautiful, drawing from themes that are somewhat Biblical in nature, but turning the process into a defining and accessible piece of songwriting craftsmanship, mostly without it being preachy or gaudy. My fave track is “I Ain’t a Prophet.” She is definitely someone to watch. - Mary Houdini

(Quarantine Columbus) The Sewing Room is a full length album due out on July 10th of this year, and available now for pre-order (only $12) from Edible Onion Records. It is a beautiful, folksy album, that shows off the gorgeous voice of Ember Schrag through twelve haunting ballads. The first 100 copies are in handmade books that are so ridiculously cool that it makes you wonder why more albums aren't made like this. The tempo is slow and the mood is a little dark, but not depressingly so. Slightly unsettling ballads that are both vivid recollections, but at the same time are coyly vague about just what exactly is going on. She doesn't spoon-feed the listener her thoughts or emotions; she forces the listener to make conclusions on their own, to think and imagine and decode the songs purpose. With each listen, you will hear something different that wrinkles what you thought previously. That's a wonderful talent to have, and Schrag performs it skillfully. Schrag's voice is... enchanting. It's sweetly soft, incredibly rich, adorably simple, and cunningly complicated. Within Ember Schrag's The Sewing Room, each song tells it's own story, and each sounds poignant and personal; telling tales of love, loss, wonder, and woe. It's worth mentioning that while the songs all sound similar to each other, none of them sound the same; each is obviously unique. That's rare these days where many bands and singers and songwriters pick a sound they are comfortable with and stick to it completely, to the point that all their songs sound the same and therefore disposable. Also impressive is that the songs range in time from 1:42 to just over 4 minutes, with most running around 3 - 3:30. Unlike many other indie singer/songwriters, Schrag doesn't give in to creating overblown, long-winded, increasingly boring 5 minute songs in order to appease her own ego. While her voice is certainly what takes center-stage on the record, the backing music provided by an apparently rotating group of musicians (P.G. Six, Jonah Sirota (The Chiara Quartet), Amy Denio, and Alex McManus (The Bruces, Vic Chesnutt, Lambchop), Philip Gayle, Jay Kreimer, Max Johnson, and Gary Foster) is given ample opportunities to shine. - Tim Razler

(Luna Kafe, Norway) Ember Schrag is a returning artist here at Luna Kafé (last time around was the Jephthah's Daughter EP), and we're always saying 'welcome back. it's always a pleasure'. The Sewing Room includes all the four songs off the aforementioned EP, but in new, re-recorded versions. This time with an additional backing, counting a sparse and sober arrangement of acoustic and electric guitars, bass, lap steel, piano, drums, backing vocals, viola, mandolin, clarinet, pump organ. The players count pianist P.G. Six, viola player Jonah Sirota (from The Chiara Quartet), guitarists Alex McManus (from The Bruces, Vic Chesnutt, and Lambchop) and Philip Gayle, bass and lap steel player Greg Talenfeld, bassist Max Johnson, drummer Gary Foster plus a few others. The EP from two years back was sort of a taster holding demo sketches, as the songs now sound more fulfilled, not so fast, and generally more worked through. "Jephthah's Daughter", the title track from that time, is still good, but "I Ain't a Prophet" is still the favourite track. Even though I might prefer the original. Maybe. Or maybe not, because the lap steel is really discreetly cool. "Frauleh Jekketheka" is another fave song. This is excellent proof of Schrag's laidback and totally relaxed style. The title track is another highlight off this album, with its cool viola. Other songs to mention: "Houston", and the closing "April Night". If you're seeking a ballad album of substance, this could be a good place to start. Ember Schrag somehow reminds me of Norwegian artist Ane Brun, even though I prefer the latter's creativeness and artistic angle. No offence, Ember, because your album is indeed a fine one. - Håvard Oppøyen

(Psychedelic Folk) Although sounding as one of the absolute better song related acoustic albums from 2012, I had to delay a review and listing on my website for a long while due to the preparations for my own later to be published book, as soon as that last work was finished, I needed to come back to this album and write at least a small review. It would be a shame to miss it. This is let’s say a bit in the vein of honesty and spiritual purity in singing of people like Marie Sioux, Diane Gluck and the like, with a bit of a far away wondering Americana background and with a talent for songwriting. Ember is capable of using the right emphasis in her voice while singing, just like a blues singer can add the feeling of pain or melancholy, this approach is hanging a bit inside its content, into the songs themselves, showing the truth of situations with it. Her band accompanies slowly, carefully and at times is also rocking with her (track 8). Well produced, convincing. Never the less some songs sound a bit a like I wonder if a shorter album with a couple of reworked and more highlighting or pointing out arrangements might not have made this even better.

(Pensiere e-Motivi) Ember Schrag, cantautrice e chitarrista nativa del Nebraska, ma residente nello Iowa, anch'essa dichiaratamente ispiratasi, almeno agli esordi, a Leonard Cohen, è ciò che si dice un'interprete folk genuina e coerente. La sua musica, forse, non brilla per eccessiva originalità né per peculiarità che la rendano inconfondibile o almeno facilmente riconoscibile. Ciò nonostante, molte interpreti del folk contemporaneo avrebbero, secondo me, da imparare dal suo contegno, sobrio ed emozionante al tempo stesso, dalla sua dolcezza temperata, che coinvolge senza stuccare. E anche la strumentazione, pur ricca di corde pizzicate, di archi e di fiati, mantiene una grande discrezione. E il suo folk leva la camiciola a quadrettoni per vestire l'abito da sera, assumendo flessuose movenze swing ed uno spirito notturno....
translation
Songwriter and guitarist Ember Schrag, a native Nebraskan now living in Iowa, and openly inspired, at least on her debut, by Leonard Cohen, can be called an authentic and consistent folk interpreter. Her music might not shine with startling originality nor with peculiarities that might make it unmistakable or at least easily recognizable. Nevertheless, many interpreters of contemporary folk would be able, in my opinion, to learn from her demeanor, sober and thrilling at the same time, its sweetness tempered, involving no frills. And the arrangements, while rich in plucked and bowed strings and woodwinds, retain great discretion. Her folk music takes off its plaid shirt in favor of evening dress, assuming graceful swinging movements and a nocturnal spirit...

(Ondarock) Cosa c'è di veramente "particolare" nella musica di Ember Schrag? Beh, c'è una sensazione costante, sottocutanea, una trama invisibile che lega le canzoni di "The Sewing Room", anzi appunto le tesse insieme in un'apparenza "tradizionale", ma nel senso più pregno del termine: come essere in cima a una torre a cui la Schrag avesse appena aggiunto un piano. Magari disadorno, impolverato e disordinato come una "stanza da cucito", ma pur sempre qualche metro più in alto delle migliaia che lo precedono. Il secondo Lp della cantautrice americana, col cuore a metà tra il Nebraska e l'Iowa, ha così in sé un che di ancestrale e moderno al tempo stesso, come se non ci fosse soluzione di continuità tra gli Appalachi e Neil Young ("Sutherland" su tutte). È anche la commistione, nelle storie delle sue canzoni, tra forti simbolismi e vicende personali e terrestri, a dare a "The Sewing Room" un carattere decisamente popolare, "folk" insomma - con tanto di personaggi da antologia di Spoon River ("Frauleh Jekketheka", "Jephtah's Daughter"). Sicuramente consigliabile ai fan del soffuso country-pop di Kesang Marstrand ("In The Alley", "I Ain't A Prophet"), il disco regala però anche pagine più ammiccanti al gotico ("Dark Lion Lover", la bella e moderna title track) e aeree rivisitazioni roots ("La Maria"), con una sensazione di varietà - rara nel genere - acuita da un abile lavoro di arrangiamento per archi, fisarmonica e pianoforte e misurati rintocchi percussivi. Insomma, l'impressione netta è di aver davanti un'artista di grande valore - già la seconda quest'anno, dopo Joan Shelley - cui manca forse solo qualche brano un po' più "di presa". Peccato veniale, che magari non interessa neppure a chi ha scritto un disco come "The Sewing Room". - Lorenzo Righetto
translation
What's really "special" in the music of Ember Schrag? Well, there's a constant feeling, subcutaneous, of an invisible web that links the songs of "The Sewing Room", even weaving them together with a "traditional" appearance, but in a fuller sense of the term: as if one is atop a tower to which Schrag has just added a new floor. Certainly it is bare, dusty and messy as a "sewing room", but still a few feet higher than the thousands that precede it. The second LP by this American singer-songwriter, with a heart divided between Nebraska and Iowa, has in it something of the ancient and modern at the same time, as if there were continuity between the Appalachians and Neil Young (on "Sutherland", above all). It is also the admixture, in the stories of her songs, of strong symbolism and personal, terrestrial matters, that gives "The Sewing Room" a decidedly popular feel, "folk" in short - with lots of characters similar to those of the Spoon River Anthology ("Frauleh Jekketheka "," Jephthah's Daughter "). Definitely recommended to fans of the diffuse country-pop of Kesang Marstrand ("In The Alley", "I Ain't A Prophet"), the disc also has facets that hint at the Gothic ("Dark Lion Lover", the beautiful and modern title track) and fly over the rootsy ("La Maria"), along with a sense of variety - rare in the genre - accentuated by clever arrangements for strings, piano and accordion and careful percussive strokes. In short, the clear impression is that we are in front of an artist of great value - the second of the year after Joan Shelley - lacking perhaps only a few tracks a little wider appeal. Venial sin, that perhaps does not even matter to someone who writes an album like "The Sewing Room."

(This Is Book's Music) The more I hear music like that found on Ember Schrag‘s The Sewing Room (Edible Onion), the more I want to hear other artists like her, other music like this, and perhaps join them to describe my perspective of life’s perspectives. This is what The Sewing Room is, a perspective of life’s perspectives done in a way that’s simple yet exquisite. All of the songs are acoustic in nature and could sound like anyone from Wilco to George Jones, Norah Jones to Black Crowes, Willie Nelson to Kelly Clarkson, and yet someone will listen to this and go “how can you compare Norah Jones to Ember Schrag?” It’s basically the drive of the stories, the honesty heard in the playing, the structure of the songs, and simply wanting to believe in Schrag’s perspectives because you may share a few of them. It’s the kind of honesty that one can hear in much of Neil Young‘s work, and an honesty that I hope will bring people into her world so she can feel the respect she is sure to receive. Just don’t overwhelm her, simply say “hello” and be an open ear. The Sewing Room represents a bit of solitude as one creates a fabric from the machine. May she forever find thread to add to the sound blanket. - John Book

(Train Wreck'd Society) Her voice is as gentle as summer’s rain, yet her words burn through your heart like a burning match in the moonlight. Who might this be? Obviously it has to be the midwest based darling of the folk world, Ember Schrag. Being one of today’s most immaculate singer/songwriters to emerge since Neko Case went solo. She rights with the pain of an oil soaked sea lion, yet sings with the softness of a gentle bird resting on a willow tree. Her latest release, The Sewing Room, is merely a continuation of the sort of triumph we should have come to expect from this lovely curator of persuasive and angelic masterpieces. Just as she did on her 2009 debut album A Cruel, Cruel Woman and her 2010 follow-up EP Jephthah’s Daughter, Ember Schrag demonstrates just why exactly she is one of the finest artists strumming and singing beautiful tunes today. Harrowing and humbling are tunes like “La Maria” and “In The Alley” from her latest release, The Sewing Room. There is a bit of religious overture within her songs, but only in the sense that she believes in something beyond her own self. Even if that something is simply another human soul. She begs to be understood. But, like so many fabulous artists over the years, it is the mystery of their soul and what they aspire to feel that will always be the most appealing. The ability to self interpret as we see fit is a gift we should all cater to, and be thankful for a wonderful songstress such as Ember Schrag for allowing us the opportunity to feel something, anything, everything. Ember Schrag’s sophomore full length release, The Sewing Room, drops on June 30th courtesy of Philadelphia based labels Edible Onion Records and Single Girl Married Girl Records. If you act quick during the pre-order phase, you can receive your copy of this fantastic album with a hand-bound illustrated lyrics book. But be quick! Only the first 100 buyers will receive this gem, and they might have very well already been snagged up. Never too late to try. And be sure to look out for Ember on tour. She is constantly moving around, playing wherever you may be as well. Check out her Website for pre-order and tour information. - Ron Trembath

(Ketelmuzik) CD van Ember Schrag is een feest voor de oren en voor de ogen "CD by Ember Schrag is a feast for the ears and eyes"
Ik merk dat ik in de loop van de afgelopen jaren steeds minder CD’s ben gaan kopen. Ik stel me steeds vaker tevreden met een MP3 of een andere digitaal formaat. Maar voor bijzondere uitgaven wil ik graag een uitzondering maken. Zoals voor The Sewing Room vanEmber Schram. De eerste 100 exemplaren van haar CD zijn uitgebracht in wat Ember zelf ‘handmade art books’ noemt. Het ziet er in ieder geval prachtig uit- de CD is verpakt in een boekje met alle teksten en mooie tekeningen. Het is tot in de puntjes uitgevoerd op dik papier. Gelukkig is de muziek ook uistekend. Ember Schrag is een singer- songwriter uit Nebraska. Haar muziek is introspectief, minimaal en een beetje slaperig. De songs zijn tot in de kleinste details verzorgd. Bij de opnamen ban The Sewing Room kreeg Ember de hulp van P.G. Six, A.J. Mogis en van Alex McManus, die we nog van The Bruces en Lambchop kennen. The Sewing Room is nu op Edible Onion, waar ik mijn exemplaar bestelde, en Single Girl Married Girl Records. Prachtige naam. - Han Orsel