The best storytellers always do a careful dance. Details offered, details withheld. Drawing you in one raised eyebrow at a time, whispering here, bellowing there. Are you listening? These are secrets being told, not to mention joys, sighs, even – if you can detect them – sly bits of advice. Lean into it. Close your eyes. They’ll carry you softly home.
It’s a dance singer-songwriter Emily Gimble performs on her debut album “Certain Kinda,” with songs as soulful as they are winsome, broody as they are beautiful. It makes sense for a woman who grew up with music in her blood, singing and playing on-stage since she was seven years old. Maybe it couldn’t be helped: when your dad is Dick Gimble, beloved guitarist and upright bass player, and your grandfather is Johnny Gimble, one of the most beloved fiddle players of all time, there’s really no choice but to play, is there?
Piano beckoned Emily early on – in fact, the Austin Music Awards named her “Best Keyboards” of the city three times (2013, 2014, 2018) – as did another instrument, full of natural range and feeling: her voice. “A Case of the Gimbles,” the 2005 album she recorded with her father and grandfather, showcased her vocals and launched Emily on a national family tour, playing folk festivals and charming audiences across the country.
“The time I got to spend traveling around the country playing music with my Dad and Grandpa are the most cherished musical memories of my life,” says Emily. “It was then that I really started learning how to communicate through music, speaking with my dad and grandpa through solos and spaces on stage.”
It wasn’t long before other musicians started to take notice of Emily, including Marshall Ford Band, where she romped on some western swing, and Warren Hood and the Goods, where she explored jazz, country, folk and pop. In 2012, that band started touring nationally, then went on the road the next year with Hayes Carll as his backing band. 2013 would also see the release of a record, “The Warren Hood Band,” produced by Charlie Sexton, and in 2014, Emily joined the iconic, Grammy Award-winning country band, Asleep at the Wheel. It was an opportunity that put Emily in touch with a lot of her heroes: nothing beats playing on “Austin City Limits” (twice), except maybe for recording a duet with one of her idols, Merle Haggard.
A storied musical history, to be sure. But in many ways, Emily’s story was just beginning.
“On New Year’s Day of 2015, I was having dinner with some of my buddies, and we were going around the table with our resolutions. That’s when I suddenly burst out: ‘welp, I’m going to make a record this year. It’s time.’”
A week later, Emily got a call from Andrew Trube of Greyhounds, who invited her over to hear some new tunes. A week after that they were recording, holed up in a small house and recording space run by fellow musician Sam Patlove, near Austin’s 12th and Chicon St. corner.
“What came out of that day really shocked me,” admits Emily. “It brought tears of joy to my eyes when I heard it. I kept thinking of this project, this thing with Andrew, as a fun little experiment, unsure of what would come of it. But the four tracks we did on that first day made me completely fall in love. I kept listening, and it kept moving me.”
The song “East of Kerns” came out of those initial sessions, seducing the listener into a jazzy, blacktop road trip, letting us gaze out the window with a heart full of longing and a head full of memories. “With One Eye” finds Emily defiant and truth-telling, belting out proclamations to a frustrating lover before giving way to percussive, sultry vocals. “Canyons of Gold” is an arms-stretched-wide embrace of growing up, with a touch of gospel vocals for good measure. Title track “Certain Kinda” is soft and thoughtful by turns, assurances to a companion undercut by notes of ambivalence. “It’s a wonder that we ever made it,” Emily sings, but this album – cut, mastered, and mixed with the likes of Jimmie Vaughan is just the opposite.
“Certain Kinda” was mastered at Ardent Studios in Memphis, whose catalog includes the likes of Bob Dylan, The Raconteurs, and The Staple Singers (a huge influence on Emily), as well as Texan natives the Vaughn Brothers and ZZ Top. Well-honed musical ears will appreciate a production that feels unfussy but pristine, vintage but clean. It’s the result of a musician who’s spent decades learning her craft, and a lifetime building her musical family. If this arresting debut album is any sign, we’ll be hearing the name “Emily Gimble” for many years to come.