Emma's Imagination - Underway
Before The Voice became the 'credible' X Factor alternative on UK screens in 2012, a little Sky 1 show called Must Be the Music searched for an alternative to cover version ballad warblers. The resulting winner was Emma Gillespie, or Emma's Imagination, a Scottish sometime-busker who won hearts and votes with the lush, acoustic 'Focus'. Her debut album, released via Gary Barlow's now-defunct label, did not match this song for simple effectiveness but instead showcased a proficient line in sweet but oftentimes cloying acoustic pop songs that were ultimately unimaginative.
This low-key EP rediscovers some of the initial promise, and the likeability factor, that helped Gillespie emerge victorious back in 2010. Underway is a stripped-back affair and displays significantly more mature songwriting. There's still an obvious hit or hook missing in order for Gillespie to make a mark on the charts, but this is music that does at least have integrity intact even if it's derivative of a number of female singer/songwriters who've travelled the same path before. Her delivery reminds of Katie Melua on more than one occasion, and similarities with fellow guitar-wielding Scot KT Tunstall cannot be ignored. However, the rippling electric blues of 'Pour It Out' and a moody rendering of Deftones' 'Change' command attention, and hint at a darker and more interesting direction that I would be interested in hearing if she ever gets to that second album.