Monday, August 10, 2009

music and landscape: bluegrass, Ireland, New England

Music often evokes landscape, and often arises from it. That’s a subject up for discussion often here along the music road. With a name like music road it’d almost have to be you’d think, and I’ve been listening to two quite different -- yet in their own ways related -- albums which travel in that territory.

Bryan Sutton is guitarist who is based and grounded in bluegrass. For his album Almost Live he’s gathered musical friends including Chris Thile, Tim O’Brien, Russ Barenberg, and Bela Fleck in combinations and situations which fit the spontaneity of the albums title and idea. There’s the high lonesome sound of the mountains, the lively dance of the evening’s gathering, a hornpipe inspired by an island in Maine and a two guitar tune named after another island.

That’s a journey worth the taking, as is the one Irish composer and keyboardist Denis Carey offers on his latest album Moving On. From the liveliness of a Cajun ceili to a set of keys on the counter to a day on Cape Breton to the haunting farewells of emigration, Carey invites to a conversation which needs no words to be eloquent. He too has friends along to share the craic, including Zoe Conway, Manus McGuire, and Mairtin O’Connor. Look for more of what I think about this fine album in an upcoming issue of the folk and world music magazine Dirty Linen.

A book from yet a different landscape but which goes along with these ideas is Robert Todd Felton’s A Journey into the Transcendentalists' New England. Part travel guide, part exploration of history, and part visual exploration with photographs and maps, it’s a thought provoking journey into the world --past, and how the geography and architecture of it live today -- of these New England poets and thinkers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.

you may also want to see

Irish music, Irish landscape

World Ocean Day: music of the waters

Songs of Homecoming, to Scotland and other places

Wilderness Plots: the dvd

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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