Emma-Lee - The Drake, Toronto - March 22, 2012 - 
Canadian Music Week

By Anthony Marcusa
Photos by Vanessa Markov


For a few moments in time on a Thursday night, Emma-Lee, the soulful, earnest, and determined vocalist and songwriter, transformed the Drake Underground into a raucous country tavern, evoking visions of people dancing on bar-tops as the crowd cheered and moved to her soaring final number.

“Shadow of a Ghost,” one of her finest pieces, is a powerful, catchy, and fully-engaging composition that has to be experienced live. Beginning as a slow, soulful, and intimate ballad, the song evolves into a fast-paced and feisty number that immediately sways even the most stoic of concert-goers.

Emma-Lee has before and continues to be genre-defying, with past jazz and pop stylings giving way to intimate and passionate pieces driven by her songwriting and stunning voice, with the occasional infusion of country and twang. “Shadow of a Ghost” expertly features both her singing range and stage presence, being fully committed and completely engaged.

The song concludes in the same fashion it begins, with the fair-haired, bright-eyed and impassioned songstress slowly reciting lyrics of sincerity. After building and building, with an energetic and talented band behind (including the prolific Karen Kosowski, co-writer on the song), the performance hits a dramatic peak, allowing the lone Emma-Lee to solemnly close it, singing, “Goodbye, goodbye mystery, you’ve lead me to believe: my only hope is me.”

There was of course much more to her captivating set as part of Canadian Music Week before leaving the audience rapt with her soaring finale. She played a few songs from her recently released album, “Backseat Heroine,” including the first track, the determined “Not Coming By,” and the lovely lilt, “I’ll Dream for You.” She instilled hope and curiosity upon the ever-growing crowd with “Just Looking,” continuing to challenge the audience, alternating slow and fast number, soulful and saturated, vulnerable and fierce. 

“Figure it out,” also from her latest album, saw Emma-Lee grab a tambourine and get the crowd swaying once more, following it up with a new song, “Kiss My Face,” a love-song as it were about making out.

Emma-Lee has endured over the years, growing as a singer, songwriter, and performer, and demonstrating during Canadian Music Week that she can fit in anywhere and arrest any audience with her dulcet voice and heartfelt lyrics.

Wonderful to see

I saw Emma-Lee at The Painted Lady for NxNE back in 2010 and the evolution of Emma-Lee's stage presence and her song-writing is very impressive. Plus, she's got the greatest fans in town. Loved the show, new fan. Seeing Steve Zsirai and Tom Juhas backing her was a great bonus.