A Review of the CD
"Dear Sarah"
by Frank Emerson

"Dear Sarah"
by Frank Emerson

Devil Dog Records: DDCD 002
Copyright: 2001 Devil Dog Records


This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 6/02

Track 9 of this CD bears an ominous warning to me: they are famous words of Theodore Roosevelt. “It is not the critic who counts”……...”the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena”.

{Here, I cough a nervous cough.]

Is this a variation on the observation that critics are like eunuchs: they know how it is done, they can see how it is done, but they just cannot do it themselves? Ha!

But of course, the CRITIC is in the arena too. Another dictum comes to mind: “by appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property”.

And believe it or not, every reviewer that I know, WANTS to enthuse over his subject. We are sad when we cannot, because we do not like shouting “caveat emptor!”

So, with that said, it is pleasing for me to say that I enjoyed this CD more than his previous one. For one thing, Frank Emerson HIMSELF came through a lot more; plus there was more material that was new to me on this CD.

The cuts that stand out are “The Flag of Our Fathers” – a self-penned song that has really scored a hit with American Veterans – and “Sullivan Ballou Letter” as affecting a piece of prose as one will hear in a long while.

But the masterpiece is his inspired juxtaposition of Johnny Cash’s “The Ragged Old Flag” with his own emotional singing of “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Now, I am a Brit who does not really understand the American near-worship of “The Flag”. Whereas my wife abhors seeing our Union Jack on T-shirts and briefs, I reckon it the best place for a flag. To be honest, I really identify with fans of the flagless flagpole. Like them, I too feel those naked flagpoles are flying “my” flag!

So given my curious mindset, it is a real tribute to Frank Emerson to say that he moved me with these two pieces, as the first segued into the Anthem.

But when he had started on “The Star Spangled Banner”, I’d feared the worst. The National Anthem of the United States of America is a fiendishly difficult anthem to sing. It is harder than Everest: it is the K2 of national anthems. Best suited to sopranos and tenors. Not baritones like Frank. Let alone baritones who have a somewhat uncertain relationship with perfect pitch.

Yet surprisingly, he carried it off beautifully. And his fine diction brought the words of the Anthem home to me in a way they had never been brought home to me before. That, coupled with the fact that the poem of Johnny Cash (which preceded it) “prepared the ground” (so-to-speak) for the words of the Anthem to work their magic.

And as I end this review, it occurs to me that some readers may think I have been a bit hard on the musical quality of Frank Emerson’s voice. Not so. Look, just THINK about it.

The discerning ones amongst us are not interested in “perfection”. It is the IMPERFECTION of the human voice that makes us Folk buffs rather than OPERA buffs. Us Folkies are looking for the SOUL. And Emerson has it in spades.

And it is “imperfection” that attracts: not just in voices, but in PEOPLE too!

We are attracted to “imperfection” within reason, mind you: the imperfection of say an Adolf Hitler, is decidedly NOT for us. But none of us want the boredom of marrying a total saint.

Boredom apart, it would give us an inferiority complex!

Dai Woosnam

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