The stripped-down tracks on Mama Acoustic Recordings contain alternate-universe versions of the material on Emily Wells’ 2012 album Mama, and as with any recording of this nature, the collection of songs needs to make a case for its existence. Wells, who has turned heads recently as a hip-hop violinist of sorts, as well as a multi-instrumentalist, doesn’t showcase much more on Acoustic Recordings than sparse guitar chords and her own sweet voice, frequently with the reverb turned up as high as it will go. For anyone who might have been under the mistaken impression that Wells was an edgy gimmick, despite the tight arrangements and skillful songwriting showcased on Mama, this recording will allay those fears.
Many of these tunes lend themselves well to being stripped down, and their only fault is that they run the the risk of blending into each other. “If I had any sense, if I had my innocence, I’d take you home with me,” Wells whispers into the mic on the lovely “Darlin,” rolling the words around in her mouth and savoring each one before releasing it, all in a sweeter tone than in the full-blooded version. There was a darkness inherent to Mama that rarely rears its head on Acoustic Recordings, even on “Johnny Cash’s Mama’s House”, a sad tune about coming to terms with grief and loss. “You never know what you had ‘til you lost it,” Wells sings. The minimalistic versions of these songs don’t feel like a loss, though; rather, they feel like a skilled young musician getting in back in touch with herself, checking in to see if all of her most vital source material is right where she left it.
Essential Tracks: “Darlin”, “Johnny Cash’s Mama’s House”