Italian singer-songwriter Emma Tricca is thoroughly steeped in the British and American folk of the early 1960s — that pre-psychedelic, even pre-Fairport Convention strain best exemplified by early Bert Jansch or Donovan. Her debut, Minor White, stands out immediately as having tapped into a sound whose memory seems for the most part to have been replaced in the contemporary musical scene by its later mutations: a pure and austere, but rather polished and sophisticated acoustic-guitar based folk that favors simple or even humble chord changes and melodies over ostentatious displays of creativity or novelty.
For all of that, Minor White isn’t merely imitative: despite the obvious reference points, one feels like Tricca is trying to update her influences rather than revive them. She succeeds in establishing, at least on a purely sonic level, a striking and unique sound: her dexterous guitar playing, beautifully recorded, provides the foundation, while the other instruments employed are used judiciously for maximum effect (the organ and piano on “Paris Rain”). Tricca’s singing, meanwhile, will likely divide listeners: while her voice is quite beautiful and her delivery subtle and effective, her odd accent (a slightly accented English that seems to purposely place itself between American and British) and affectations (a vibrato that sounds like it’s lifted from Antony or Devendra Banhart) can be a bit off-putting.
While Tricca certainly succeeds in establishing a sound for herself, her lyrics and songwriting can be a bit underwhelming. They range from the cliché (as distinct from the deliberately imitative forms often found in folk music) walking-the-lonely streets trope of “Cobblestone Street” and “Paris Rain” to the rather anonymous romantic sentiment of “Blind Time,” and in most cases come across as not particularly deeply felt, as though Tricca were simply trying to approximate what she thinks a folk song should be about. While some of the songs stand out by virtue of their beautiful instrumental arrangements (“Monday Morning Yawning”), most of them remain bogged down in a generally pleasant but slight airiness, both lyrically and musically. For a first album, however, this isn’t particularly surprising — Tricca manages to establish a unique and compelling mood and sound, which certainly distinguishes her, even if she hasn’t quite figured out yet how to use it.