SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- For the third time since little Ivy was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, her chemo-weakened immune system had succumbed to infection and she was raced back to the pediatric ICU and put on life support.
It was becoming a somber routine for Ember Valley guitarist and resident Sohail Al-Jamea and his family. So the message they found written on the whiteboard outside the two-year-old’s hospital room this time was poignant.
“Welcome Back, Ivy!”
That tinge of brightness cutting through grief is infused in the songs of Ember Valley’s debut EP, “Welcome Back.”
It’s most evident in “Atmosphere,” which Al-Jamea honed over the many hours he kept vigil by Ivy’s bedside with his guitar.
“During my many months at the hospital with Ivy, I constantly had to work on staying positive and finding the silver linings in every complication that Ivy endured. Playing the guitar for her was the perfect way for me to focus my energy on something that both of us enjoyed,” Al-Jamea said. “I played the tune that would become “Atmosphere” so often that it became a mantra. Even now, Ivy immediately responds to the tune every time I play it.”
For singer Megan Wetzel, recovering herself from a shattering head-on collision with a drunk driver, it was a familiar feeling and a shared inspiration.
“I was in a long musical drought before finding Ember Valley,” Wetzel said. “Writing this music was a huge catharsis after dealing with a lot of pain and emotional baggage. The songs on "Welcome Back" speak to different phases of that process.”
Ember Valley began to take shape when guitarists Sohail Al-Jamea and Chris Gray met and started writing music together in the summer of 2017. Wetzel joined them in January 2018, and bassist and recent San Diego transplant Tom Lazet completed the lineup that spring. The band has worked with a revolving cast of drummers, with Jenny Klug of Clevers sitting in on four of the EP’s five songs and Jon Archuleta permanently filling the position in March 2019.
Welcome Back EP (CD) $5.00 + shipping