13 Feb 2014: Rockwood Music Hall New York
Just about six months ago, I learned that Norman Reedus, the actor who plays Daryl Dixon on AMC’s The Walking Dead, was also a photographer when he was the host of a Canon camera event. It wasn’t long after that I learned that one of his co-stars, Emily Kinney, who plays Beth Greene, is a singer-songwriter who also calls NYC home. Kinney, as Greene, gained exposure as a singer when she performed “The Parting Glass” on the show with Lauren Cohen, her on-screen sister Maggie. Towards the end of 2013, she released her second EP Expired Lover, the follow-up to 2011’s Blue Toothbrush—from which she pulled many of her songs for her pre-Valentine’s Day show at Rockwood Music Hall.
With one of the frequent seasonal snow-storms cancelling work for many people, New York City was a mess and people were off from work, but it didn’t stop Kinney from making her appearance, or from bringing Valentine’s Day cards to the smattering of folks in attendance (she was still without a Valentine). With her backing band, she delivered a warm and inviting performance that was pleasing without veering into bubble-gum territory. I mention that because Kinney told a story of how a former boyfriend told her that her songs “are really cute, but you should probably stick to acting”. I agree that her songs are really cute, but I don’t necessarily feel she doesn’t have a place in music. Her lyrics aren’t steeped in literary cleverness or drawn-out metaphors but they are nimble, sweet and heartfelt… yes essentially cute.
Kinney’s songs like “Married”, “Julie” and “Expired Lover” address young/new/former/desired lovers in stories often set in New York City from the Hudson River to Brooklyn to Times Square. In the song “Times Square”, Kinney sings of a former beau who she has parted ways with but still has some desire for. She described “Julie” as a song about a guy she wants to be with, but the fellow is already with someone named Julie, but with some imploring maybe he’d dump Julie for Emily. Kinney recruited the audience to join in the command of “take home Julie” so the possible-lover could be affected by the vibrations. It was one of a few audience participation moments, including another song where the audience snapped along with Kinney, despite the acknowledged difficulty of continuously snapping.
“Married” is a mellower, drifting song that reflects on a why the girl and boy aren’t yet married. It verges on the sugary with a line like “we are running out of jelly beans” and a reference to “making out”, but it comes across winsome rather than sappy. There were a couple of new songs that Kinney recently recorded that she performed, including a song inspired by her father about sometimes having to give up on your dreams, that was performed solo and a capella. It was mournful and in stark contrast to most of the other songs. The final recording is likely more polished but it was excellent way to showcase Kinney’s voice.
Kinney likely knows her songwriting needs further honing hence her release of new music as an “EP” instead of a proper “album” but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a listen. If you are young and in love, you’d find some great (but unabashedly direct) choices here for a mixtape and even if you are not, many of her songs might be great for some Sunday afternoon lounging. Kinney’s warmth is certainly inviting and she herself is quite friendly. Maybe it was a part of a ploy to find a Valentine but Kinney was happy to stay after her show to sign autographs and give Valentines to her fans.