Review: Vincent Neil Emerson’s New Album ‘The Golden Crystal Kingdom’
UPDATED: November 15, 2023
UPDATED: November 15, 2023

Album Release: November 10, 2023

Label: La Honda Records, under exclusicve license to RCA

Vincent Neil Emerson: The Songs and Chords of Western Music

Vincent Neil Emerson is often, and I mean OFTEN, compared to contemporary folk legends such as Guy Clark or Townes Van Zandt. That constant connection is particularly evident in his latest album, The Golden Crystal Kingdom. In another life, I imagine the album being conceived sitting around Guy Clark’s old kitchen table, sharing whiskey, cigarettes, and bellowing out tales of misfortune.

The album, produced by Shooter Jennings, showcases Jennings’ skills and know-how as a producer. Jennings is becoming a household name in the genre, much like that of Dave Cobb, particularly sought out in the realm of Country Music and Southern Rock. Tracks like Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint, Hang Your Head Low, and The Man from Uvalde distinctly bear the mark of Shooter Jennings.

Emerson’s voice, with its grit and Texas twang, complements the narrative he weaves. As is typical for singer-songwriters, themes of life on the road surface in songs like Time of the Rambler or the title track, The Golden Crystal Kingdom, offering a genuine portrayal without sounding whiny or pretentious. Emerson airs his grievances, and essentially states, he would rather be back home playing at his country store where people give a shit. I get it my man, you’re preaching to the choir.

Charlie Crockett and Buffy Sainte-Marie

Emerson’s songwriting reflects a skilled craftsmanship reminiscent of troubadours from the past. He vividly paints landscapes of prairies, rivers, and the “Old West,” delivering the essence of an old-school country and western record. The inclusion of well executed covers of Charlie Crockett’s Time of the Cottonwood Trees and Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Cod’ine reinforces the album’s Western ambiance.

The Man from Uvalde is a poignant reflection on the tragic elementary school shooting in Uvalde, TX. The song is a compelling but somewhat discomforting track due to its infectious catchiness.  The song is possibly the strongest on the album, and while I appreciate the sentiment and songwriting, the contrast between the upbeat melody and the serious subject matter feels unusual. Its rather bizarre to find yourself singing along to a song about a school shooting. I prefer a more subtle straight forward approach to something so heavy, something like The Mountain Goats’ You were Cool. Say what you need over 4 chords and get the hell out.

Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint

The album befittingly concludes on a powerful note with a tribute to Emerson’s Choctaw-Apache heritage in Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint. This type of track is where Jennings’ production skills shine. Emerson puts on rock’n’roll show with robust guitars and solos narrating the mystical powers of Little Wolf’s body paint.

Final Thoughts

Vincent Neil Emerson and Shooter Jennings have the recipe for success with The Golden Crystal Kingdom

In essence, The Golden Crystal Kingdom represents a slight departure for Vincent Neil Emerson, incorporating more electric accompaniment courtesy of Shooter Jennings. Despite occasional waviness in its pacing, the collaboration between Emerson and Jennings yields a successful outcome. Emerson’s lyric-heavy songs demand repeated listens and full attention to appreciate the end product. The Golden Crystal Kingdom is overall a huge success that will transport you back to the Blackland Prairies or On the Banks of the Old Guadalupe.

Favorite Tracks: Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint, The Man From Uvalde (Maybe?)

 

RootsnRevelry Grade:                           

For Tour and Merch: Follow Vincent Neil Emerson

You may also be interested in Hayes Carll’s Bad Liver And A Broken Heart

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