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Folk/Americana - Released May 21, 2013 | Drag City Records

Sometimes, the most riveting recordings are born from catharsis, overwhelming events in an artist's life that cannot be contained. What makes them resonate is the way they intersect with the subjective experience of the listener. Scout Niblett's It's Up to Emma fits the bill. The cover photo depicts a couple kissing: the woman's eyes are closed in bliss and hunger, but she's being watched by her object of desire with something akin to curiosity. The album's subject -- a devastating breakup -- not only reflects this but underscores it. These nine songs -- eight originals and a wonderful, if unlikely, cover of TLC's "No Scrubs" as a power ballad -- add up to a reckoning, an exorcism, and a letting go. Using ragged guitar riffs, basic drumming, some raw-sounding strings, and a deliberate lack of subtlety, Niblett goes straight at her subject; in doing so she allows all the emotions surrounding this event equal voice. Opener "Gun," with its brooding, distorted, dirty guitars and sparse yet flailing drums, lays out the all-encompassing, murderous rage that follows deep romantic betrayal, and the lyrics feel unedited to chilling effect. On "My Man," the sound of heartbreak is reflected as pure vulnerability, Niblett's voice moans and expresses desolation while asking questions that she knows are both irrelevant and obsessive. "Woman and Man" is a skittering, martial, angular blues done Niblett style. It asks about the moment the genders come together emotionally, sexually, spiritually. Its drums and guitars bludgeon, then all but collapse in the certain knowledge that the question is existential. "All Night Long," with its guitar acting as a second voice to embolden the protagonist's, has Niblett wailing in a desperate prayer to transcend her situation one way or another. On the set closer "What Can I Do?" there's a light on the distant horizon, past bitterness, anger, wrenching disappointment, and loneliness. The singer croons soulfully about the wish to experience it. She knows healing is possible, and is willing to accept whatever she needs to in order to experience it. As strings, guitars, and even synths swirl, she wills forgiveness and compassion for her former lover. It's Up to Emma comes not just from the heart but from the body, too. When Niblett's guitars crunch or drums thud, they feel like punches and hit that place in the listener. The naked emotion expressed here doesn't exactly make for an easy listening experience, but it's a brave, welcome, and perhaps even necessary one. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released January 26, 2010 | Drag City Records

“Welcome to my self-made sweat box. This is where I take it all off. I've got to sweat it out, I'll cook those monsters out -- I'm not coming out of here until my soul appears” is a line that appears in the title track of The Calcination of Scoutt Niblett, and if there is a theme for this album, this is it. The word “calcination” refers to burning metals into calx -- the ashy substance that remains. It’s appropriate here. Since 2001, Niblett has used minimal trappings to get her songs across, usually just a guitar and some well-placed drums. She concentrates on rock essences that transfer emotion without contrivance or sonic affectation -- there is no excess here, nothing extra at all. Produced (again) by Steve Albini, Niblett has stripped everything to the barest: a distorted electric guitar underscores nakedly searing lyrics that sometimes get accented by primitive drums -- or not. Accompanied only by her guitar in “Bargin“ (sic), she allows her contralto to move up half an octave and sings as if she’s looking into her own dirty, cracked mirror: "And some may say, you're not a little girl anymore, but becoming a child is what I'm waiting for.” Rather than exploding, the track moves to the sing-song quality of a lullaby. These songs may not be catchy, but they are gripping. In every one of them there is a lyric that grabs the listener by the throat. There is no forced rage here; when it does come out, it’s natural and arresting. The feedback that introduces “Cherry Cheek Bomb” breaks the tension built up in the first four cuts, and allows the guitar to express what lyrics cannot, before beginning another plank-walking confessional that exits with a wailing guitar outro. The closer, “Meet and Greet,” describes her relationship to the music business with primitive flamenco guitar sketches on guitar, with feedback and shambolic drumming. It’s a raw self-examination as much as an indictment. Calcination is a harrowing, emotionally draining 51 minutes; it can’t be judged on anything but its essences lyrically and musically, making it an abundantly successful endeavor. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released November 6, 2012 | Drag City Records

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Folk/Americana - Released April 14, 2009 | Drag City Records