The Student Journalism Site of Millard South High School

We Are Millard South

The Student Journalism Site of Millard South High School

We Are Millard South

The Student Journalism Site of Millard South High School

We Are Millard South

Vincent Neil Emerson’s ‘The Golden Crystal Kingdom’ tells tales of nostalgia, country, and what once was

Artist+Statement%3A+My+first+outing+into+making+art+for+the+newspaper%2C+created+with+digital+illustration+tools+in+Photoshop.+Started+with+a+blank+white+canvas%2C+found+clipart+for+the+two+integral+elements+%28an+outline+of+the+state+of+Texas+and+a+guitar%29+off+of+Google+Images%2C+and+put+them+together.+Turned+down+the+opacity+on+both+of+them+and+sketched+the+basic+outline+of+the+whole+thing%2C+with+the+neck+of+the+guitar+running+into+the+pandhandle.+The+coloration+was+relatively+easy+on+the+state+outline%2C+but+I+had+to+follow+more+closely+along+with+the+clipart+on+the+guitar+section.+I+ended+up+tracing+the+clipart+at+first%2C+but+had+to+do+a+lot+of+resizing%2C+manipulation%2C+and+original+coloring+to+get+it+to+smoothly+transition+into+Texas.+Made+it+look+like+the+guitar+was+growing+out+of+the+state+by+using+the+blending+tool+on+where+the+two+sections+met.+The+strings+were+pretty+difficult%2C+as+I+couldnt+get+them+straight+enough+drawing+freehand.+I+ended+up+settling+with+the+basic+line+tool%2C+but+that+meant+I+couldnt+layer+them+under+the+frets+or+blend+them+out+at+the+bottom.+Whole+thing+took+about+2-3+hours.+
Chase Zagurski
Artist Statement: My first outing into making art for the newspaper, created with digital illustration tools in Photoshop. Started with a blank white canvas, found clipart for the two integral elements (an outline of the state of Texas and a guitar) off of Google Images, and put them together. Turned down the opacity on both of them and sketched the basic outline of the whole thing, with the neck of the guitar running into the pandhandle. The coloration was relatively easy on the state outline, but I had to follow more closely along with the clipart on the guitar section. I ended up tracing the clipart at first, but had to do a lot of resizing, manipulation, and original coloring to get it to smoothly transition into Texas. Made it look like the guitar was “growing” out of the state by using the blending tool on where the two sections met. The strings were pretty difficult, as I couldn’t get them straight enough drawing freehand. I ended up settling with the basic line tool, but that meant I couldn’t layer them under the frets or blend them out at the bottom. Whole thing took about 2-3 hours.

Texas has long been an important locale for the country music genre. The state acted as a vital bridge between the Bakersfield and Nashville scenes of the heady pre-outlaw years, was a refuge for acts frustrated with the Music Row establishment of the ‘70s, and Texas talent has kept the genre alive, well, and innovative in the face of pop-induced stagnation. Up-and-comer Vincent Neil Emerson is looking to make a name for himself among Texan greats, and his latest album, ‘The Golden Crystal Kingdom,’ is more in tune with his Lone Star home than any of his previous releases. 

‘The Golden Crystal Kingdom’ draws most on the ever-present influence of East Texas song writing giant, Townes Van Zandt, and his somber, highly personal stylings. Emerson constantly toes the line between poetry and melancholy with his original song writing, expertly juxtaposing feelings of hope and contentment with heartbreak and cynicism. In places, the album is laced with themes of nostalgia, a fact most apparent on the first two tracks, ‘Time of the Rambler’ and ‘The Golden Crystal Kingdom’, which express feelings of longing for good times that are long gone and, sadly, can’t come back: Whether it’s roaming the country on a soul-searching ramble, playing a set in a dive bar, or falling madly in young love, Emerson recounts all with the power of his song.

The album’s big standout for me was the guitar accompaniment: Twanging steels, rustic acoustics, and swinging electrics weave an otherworldly soundscape that pairs greatly with those nostalgic themes. Percussion is steady, slow, and simple – not too complex, but still enough to keep the beat and tap your feet to. 

In stark contrast, with heavy electric guitar riffs and almost Hendrix-esque distortion on the latter track, the back-to-back pairing of ‘Hang Your Head Down Low’ and ‘Co’dine’ puts the energy-filled, classic and hard rock- influenced work of prolific producer Shooter Jennings on full display. These songs represent the absolute best of the fusion of outlaw, honky tonk, and rock-and-roll that Emerson has practiced since his debut, and their harder-driving instrumentation and vocals do wonders to break up the quiet flow of the Van Zandt-influenced songs that surround them. 

Following in the footsteps of preeminent musician-activists like Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson, Emerson leverages his singer-songwriter stardom and performing talent to provide commentary on contemporary social issues. The B-side of the album tackles issues like gun violence (‘The Man from Uvalde’) and the oppression of American Indians (‘Little Wolf’s Invincible Yellow Medicine Paint’) head-on. These quasi protest songs may seem somewhat out of place on a record that, up until its ninth track, was a pretty standard country romp, and the politics may be a turn-off for some who enjoy country music just for country music’s-sake; However, I feel Emerson presents his commentary in engaging-enough ways that the possible shortcomings of the political messaging are far outweighed by interesting instrumentation and vocals. 

Considering Emerson’s greater aims to blend contemporary styles while telling a touching story, his lyrics are pretty trope-ridden. The album is also quite a bit slower in places than I’d like personally, but there’s always a place for that soft, contemplative East Texas sound in plenty of peoples’ hearts and playlists. Whereas with other artists I would have been left wanting for more, Vincent Neil Emerson and The Golden Crystal Kingdom seldom disappointed. 

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Chase Zagurski
Chase Zagurski, Reporter
Chase is a senior. This is his first year on the newspaper staff. Outside of academics, Chase enjoys swimming, shooting, playing video games, and listening to music.
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