Vincent Neil Emerson is a torchbearer of the Texas songwriter tradition. He channels the straightforward truth-telling and resonance of his songwriting heroes in Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Steve Earle into something fresh and distinctly his own. Where his 2019 debut Fried Chicken and Evil Women proved that he is one of the most reverent students of country and Western musical traditions, his follow-up LP, the masterful Rodney Crowell-produced Vincent Neil Emerson, which is out June 25 via La Honda Records/Thirty Tigers, is a brave step forward that solidifies his place as one of music’s most compelling and emotionally clarifying storytellers. His songs are cathartic and bluntly honest, never mincing words or dancing around uncomfortable truths.
Raised in Van Zandt County in East Texas by a single mother of Choctaw-Apache descent, Emerson’s world changed when he first heard Townes Van Zandt’s music. “To hear a guy from Fort Worth say those kinds of things and make those songs was pretty eye opening,” the now 29-year-old songwriter says. “I had never heard songwriting like that before.” He’s spent the better part of the past decade honing his songwriting and performance chops playing bars, honky-tonks, and BBQ joints across the Fort Worth area. His first album Fried Chicken and Evil Women, which he wrote in his mid-twenties and came out on La Honda Records—the label he co-founded that now includes a roster of Colter Wall, Local Honeys, and Riddy Arman—is a snapshot of his growth as a songwriter and stage-tested charm with songs like “Willie Nelson’s Wall” and “25 and Wastin’ Time” expertly combining humor and tragedy.