By Matt Wickstrom
LEXINGTON, Ky. — To say I was blown away by EmiSunshine, a 14-year-old musical prodigy out of East Tennessee, during her intimate Sunday performance at The Burl would be a massive understatement.
Whether you’re listening to live Youtube videos, which helped to jumpstart the artist’s viral career, or listening to her albums, nothing does justice to actually seeing EmiSunshine live and in person, as I quickly found out before she finished a single song on Sunday evening. It’s simply baffling to me how somebody so young is able to not only sing at the level she does while making it seem effortless, but also the maturity and depth of her songwriting, a catalogue that already runs four albums deep.
EmiSunshine performed for nearly an hour and a half, showed no signs of slowing down, interacting with the crowd between songs with a witty banter in addition to cracking some light-hearted jokes with the members of her family band that includes father Randall Hamilton on bass and harmony vocals, brother John Hamilton on mandolin and guitar, and uncle Bobby Hill on drums.
The artist mixed in enthralling renditions of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 6,” the song that set her career in motion; and The Zutons’ hit “Valerie” that Amy Winehouse later thrust into the mainstream, into her set alongside a slew of original songs including the scat-happy “Danny Ray” and “Strong Armed Robbery” from 2017’s Ragged Dreams, which you can watch below.
Prior to EmiSunshine taking the stage those in attendance were treated to a delightful set from Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s Them Coulee Boys, who made a quick return to Central Kentucky after performing at The Burl on Feb. 14 with Mama Said String Band.
From talking with other concert-goers outside of the venue many were not familiar with Them Coulee Boys, but following their 45-minute opening set I had many of those same people walk up to me and tell me how ecstatic the performance made them feel, with several people saying that the Avett Brothers comparison I made to the band being spot on.
I’m certainly not the first to compare Them Coulee Boys to the Avetts and upon listening to the group you can sense why with lead vocalist Soren Staff’s crisp vocals in the realm of Seth Avett with an acoustic, folk rock sound to match. The group fired up several of their own hits, including a set closing “10 Ft. Tall” and “Find Your Muse,” the later of which you can find a video of below with pictures to follow.