The now twenty-four year old singer/songwriter Emily Barnes began playing guitar at the age of 16 and it has ever since been her true passion. Barnes, from the tiny town of Johnsonburg, New Jersey has been traversing the country via a van she has christened Ralph. In just six months Barnes has played shows in over thirty states. During this time on the road Barnes wrote most of the songs on her sophomore release, Let in the Light while on the road.
This sense of wide open and unknown spaces acts as a thematic background for the songs on Let in the Light. She opens the album with her lone, beautiful vocals singing like a siren with a hint of twang. In her way Barnes is letting the listener into her record in a sense. Next “Uncertainty” opens with a gentle ripple of acoustic strums and in the background we hear what sounds to be a sink filling up with dishes, perhaps the flower cup of from which Barnes sings about here, the one where “all the flowers died” is in there. As “Uncertainty” slowly and sadly meanders its story draws you deeper in.
Telling stories is what Barnes does best and what make her songs so powerful and what makes them stick with you. On the bouncy and uncannily irresistible and playful piano ballad “Not Good Enough for Me” she laments about a former lover “you’ve become a sickness that’s no good for my health,” then adds with wit and whimsy “You’re overrated, too complicated, dysfunctional and inebriated.” This playful side then goes back to a pin pointed seriousness on the title track “Let in the Light” on which she laments “we all need cracks to let in the light.”
It is a powerful lyric and brings together the major themes of these songs, of characters who are teetering on the edge of a breaking point in their lives. On “Conviction” she sings, “smack dab on reality runway / sometimes I wanna be a runaway,” and “just give it up won’t you just give in” she seems to beg in this piano ballad, “and let love win.”
Emily Barnes is more than just a musician; she’s a storyteller that sets the lives of her characters to music. Her sophomore release Let in the Light should be both required reading and listening for anyone who is feeling or has ever felt fractured by life. Barnes’ stories are culled from time spent on the road and taking in stories from many different lives. Her findings seem to leave one thing certain, and that is everyone, no matter where they live, is fragile sometimes, and that’s okay.
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