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Ragged Dreams – 2017 (Little Blackbird)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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CDs by EmiSunshine

EmiSunshine is a preternaturally talented singer and songwriter with expressive gifts belying her years. "Ragged Dreams," her third studio album, features her vocal power on a range of songs that draw from the country and mountain tradition. "Ragged Dreams" is a beautiful set of songs, which benefit from her pitch, power, and phrasing from Emilie Sunshine Hamilton, who hails from East Tennessee and gained traction through social media exposure (notably YouTube). At 13, she tours with her backing family band and has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry.

Emi Sunshine operates at one speed - full throat. Whether the tune is a country shuffle ("Porter Waggoner Blues"), a ballad or a murder song, she is right up in it, parrying and thrusting. She is not blessed with experience in life, nor should she be, so the nuanced delivery of a more practiced artist remains to be developed. But she is blessed with a powerful instrument, and she interprets the lyrics (many her own) with care and feeling well beyond her life experience.

Taken as a contemporary performer, regardless of age, EmiSunshine, well, shines. Her father, Randall, plays standup bass and sings harmony; brother John Letner plays mandolin and her uncle, Bobby Hill, plays drums. The production values are bright and lively. Her primary language is viva voce.

And she writes or co-writes (with family members), a lot of her material. It's a real treat to hear EmiSunshine bend her notes and phrases to suit her vocal pocket. Comparisons are dangerous, but she emulates Dolly Parton in approach and intensity. She has the echoes of the mountain high country in her voice and empathy in her delivery. "Ragged Dreams" displays real talent and maturity.