Vincent Neil Emerson’s Fried Chicken & Evil Women Doesn’t Follow Country Tropes, It Reinvents Them


By David Fletcher

It’s been a busy time for Fort Worth-based country artist Vincent Neil Emerson. With his debut album Fried Chicken & Evil Women, the first album to be released on the California-based label La Honda Records, set to be released on September 13th, Emerson is wrapping up a West Coast tour before coming back to Fort Worth for an album release show at The Post at River East before heading off to the Midwest.

So, how is the Texan from Myrtle Springs handling all of the California love?
“I’m doing good!” Emerson says simply. “Life is good these days.”

Clearly, the hectic schedule and forthcoming album hasn’t gotten into the singer-songwriter’s head. For now, he’s just enjoying the time on the road. “It’s going pretty well,” Emerson says of the tour. “I’ve been through here before with Colter Wall, and they really dug us then. I wasn’t sure how it would be headlining shows out here, but it’s been great. Folks are very supportive out here.”

It was on that tour with Colter Wall that Emerson’s career got an unexpected shot in the arm when he found a fan in Aquaman  and Game of Thrones actor Jason Mamoa on Jan. 19 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, British Columbia. “We actually met through Craigslist,” Emerson recalls. “I was giving away some kittens, and he was in the market for a good kitten. We got drunk at TGIFridays and just hit it off. He’s a great guy!”

IMG_8733.jpgVincent Neal Emerson at Magnolia Motor Lounge Fort Worth | Photo Credit Jessica Waffles

Emerson was featured on Mamoa’s YouTube show On the Roam, and since then things have not slowed down. With popular country ruled by cringe-worthy snap tracks and lyrics as trite as anything heard on a Top 40 station, it is refreshing to find a country singer like Emerson. Emerson, however, is quick to point out that he is not alone in his mission to bring country back to it’s inspiring, rebel days.

“I think there’s a lot of great music coming out these days,” Emerson says. “Tyler Childers, Colter Wall, and Sturgill Simpson are pretty dang popular. I think these boys are kicking down the doors for people like me.”

Like these musicians, Emerson makes it a point to go back to the source material for inspiration – as far back as Alan Lomax’s archival recordings of Blues and Country music for the Library of Congress in the late-1930s and early-1940s.

“I listen to a lot of old Texas Country Blues, like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb,” he says. “I’ve always been a fan of Southern Folk Music and Cowboy Songs. I think Ramblin’ Jack is a prime example of that, but there’s a slew of old recordings out there. Alan Lomax recorded some great stuff.”

Produced by Niles City Sound hitmakers in Ft. Worth, Texas, the 10 tracks from Fried Chicken & Evil Women show the dynamic songwriting range of the 27-year-old singer. With tracks that swing (“25 and Wastin’ Time” and “Willie Nelson’s Wall”) and songs that swoon (“Dade County Jail” and “Bad Side of Luck”), Emerson’s album demands attention from anyone who dares to say that they just don’t like country music.

Vincent Neal Emerson at Magnolia Motor Lounge Fort Worth | Photo Credit Jessica Waffles

Though the songs may be filled with familiar country tropes, there is something refreshing about hearing them from a young man hellbent on looking at them from a new perspective where small details take on bigger meanings. Take the sheer songwriting prowess of the song “Letters on the Marquee,” which takes the subtle humor of a venue running out of letters to advertise the long-named Vincent Neil Emerson’s upcoming show and transforms it into one of a list of minor incidents that collectively get the singer moving homeward.

The same song goes on to use the image of a top-shelf liquor bottle, dusty from months of patrons being unable to afford it, as a self-image for the singer – something that can’t be bought or sold, something timeless and untouchable. None of these songs stand out quite like the KXT-favorite “7 Come 11,” which has the haunting story-song delivery of Johnny Cash in “Long Black Veil” or Guy Clark’s “The Last Gunfighter Ballad.”

The sixth track on the album, the song begins with an image of hopelessness, betting on a game he was already going to lose, all of his possessions on his back and a love long lost, and ends with a warning of the destruction a single drifter can bring.

While the album is filled with nods to his influences like Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe and Justin Townes Earl, this particular song came from an man whose life and legacy has inspired musicians from his day forward – the man who wrote one of Texas’ most enduring country ballads “Pancho and Lefty.”

“I was thinking about Townes Van Zandt when I wrote that song,” says of the “7 Come 11.” “He’s from Fort Worth, and it wasn’t too long after I moved there that I wrote it. I’m a big Townes fan, and I find his music and life very inspiring.”

A Texas musician inspired by Texas musicians, Emerson doesn’t say much of anything else, letting his music speak for itself.

Well, that and an emphatic “God bless Texas!”


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