Emerson Hart Honors Grandfather’s Life On 32 Thousand Days

Emerson Hart
32 Thousand Days
(Pasquo House Records)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Sincerity in music generally cuts two ways; too much can sound schlocky and pompous, too little and the artist seems removed or disengaged. It’s a tricky tightrope to traverse, one that Emerson Hart is only partially successful navigating.

The Tonic frontman’s third solo effort is sonically analogous to his first two.  According to the publicity notes, it’s a song cycle of sorts concerning Hart’s grandfather, who lived for the titular 32,000 days. Without knowing that though, it’s difficult to glean the concept from the lyrics of these songs, many dealing with universal concepts of broken relationships (“Lights Out”), getting older (“Ageless”), and endless love (“Island”). Musically they exhibit the professionalism you would expect from a veteran singer-songwriter with Hart’s experience.

These 14 mid-tempo folk-rockers are never less than emotional, honest and, well, sincere. Many like the opening “Lucky One” boast arena-sized, hook-laden choruses. They work off Hart’s acoustic guitar which is overlaid with drums and electric riffs providing heft and an anthemic, melodic approach that’s powerful and pulsating. 

But as much as many of these ballads reverberate effectively on their own, 50 minutes of them, most with comparable tempos, instrumentation and structure, dampens and dilutes the effect. Each starts with a strumming acoustic guitar and gradually builds from there. Add Emerson’s sober but limited voice that drips with earnestness and by the time you get to the Tom Petty-styled closing title track, one of the disc’s finest, the effect is numbing. A good, objective co-pilot could have worked wonders with these songs, but as artist and producer, Hart doesn’t do himself any favors. 

All but one track is co-written. Some are shared by as many as three others along with Hart so it’s hard to say who is to blame when the lyrics turn overly obvious as in “Disposable,” where each line starts with a letter of the title (“D, is the distance, I for the insult, S for the sorry we never said” etc.) or “Amen”’s oblique “Let time erase what fear has become.”

Still, there are moments like on the ringing “She Makes it Rain” that show Emerson Hart to be a talented singer-songwriter who constructs solid melodies and choruses. But between the similar musical makeup of the songs and a sound that too often leans towards affected, he gets in his own way. 

It makes the well-crafted 32 Thousand Daysonly fitfully effective when, with perhaps a better producer to bring more diversity and crispness to the overall sound, it could have been much more successful. 

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