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Emerson Hart - Cigarettes & Gasoline

EMI Manhattan Records - July 17, 2007

by Jackie Lee King

Emerson Hart - Cigarettes & GasolineYou know his voice, as the ex-vocalist of Tonic, from radio's most played song of 1997, If You Could Only See. Now, singer/songwriter Emerson Hart releases his first solo effort Cigarettes & Gasoline. The 12 track CD has the feel of conversations and letters about being separated from something you love, whether a person or the music business.

These compositions find Emerson at the next stage of his musical career. Songs like If You're Gonna Leave, the CD's first single, and I Wish The Best For You are two views of an ending relationship. There is fire and passion in both of these songs: they showcase the difficulty of letting go. Emerson works his musical magic through catchy riffs and cord progressions that you find yourself humming long after the "relationship" is over.

Another type of break up comes in the classically flavored (cello and guitar) Green Hills Race to California, in which he ponders a return to the place that made him a star. Now that Emerson has found sanctuary in Tennessee, is it a good idea to return to the lair of the beast? Jumping back into the dysfunctional music industry is like an alcoholic meeting with friends at a bar. How does one avoid the dangers of the rock and roll lifestyle and still share music with others?

Emerson's song writing has matured, but still has that punch that he perfected with his previous group. He has a more stable sound that takes you on a journey of your own. His songs are very radio friendly and convey visual images, like a movie, while retaining a rock and roll feeling. The green fields of Nashville are felt in this recording and has an LA flavor mixed in. The song Ordinary typifies this sound and is a realistic look at long term relationships and how they become stilted. Settling in does have its comforts, but sometimes you need a little spice to strengthen a relationship.

Emerson utilizes his writing to rise above painful memories in the title track of the CD release. The story of the song Cigarettes & Gasoline is Emerson's own personal journey to find happy moments in regards to his father. Emerson's father was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia in 1975. After his parents divorced the psychological abuse didn't stop until his father disappeared. The local police suspected that Emerson's father was murdered, but it took years before he would deal with the pain associated with his father.

"Holding in and letting go
Freezing hands and coffee burns
Steering strait in a heavy tide
All these things I've learned" - Cigarettes & Gasoline

Emerson's memories of the fishing trips he used to take with his father refocuses a troubled childhood. He is no longer a victim and he is choosing to remember the good and let go of the bad. This is a lesson that many of us have yet to learn.

Out of great tragedy comes..., well let's just say that there are a myriad of things that can finish that phrase. In this case what comes to mind is a greater understanding of humanity. Cigarettes & Gasoline is a collection of conversations, some more tragic than others, that find the good in things that develop out of suffering and pain, the ability to move on. If writing down the pain of life is therapy then Emerson is in good shape and will find happiness in a long term career.