best music 2013, part 1
Music which tells good stories and asks and invites good questions, which holds past and resent both and celebrates their intersections, music which speaks of passion and peace, of individual voice and of community, of place, of history, of trust, of faith, of joy: that may seem quite a bit to ask. It is these qualities, though, which pull through and connect the music we explore here along the music road.
I call your attention especially to these qualities in the recordings I point out to you as best of the year 2013.
To allow the music to unfold at its natural pace and to allow you time to listen and explore, this year I am choosing to present best of the year’s music over the course of three stories. This is the first of those. Stay tuned as January unfolds to find the full list.
Clicking on album cover images and text links will take you to longer reviews of the music and/or places where you may hear bits of it.
Best Music of the Year 2013, part one
For thirty years, Capercaillie has been celebrating, learning about, and taking the music of their home in Argyll in the west of Scotland to places across the world. To mark the three decades since they began as a band of high school friends, they have chosen to bring into focus heritage, history, landscape and present day, rising stars of the music of Scotland and what they share which is both time bound and timeless on the recording At the Heart of It All. Whether Scottish Gaelic is your language or not, you’ll be moved by songs such as S’Och A’Dhomnaill Oig Ghaolaich, which offers a love song set to the traditional rhythms of daily work. There are tunes as well, and the title song, an original piece in English, with calls to celebrate love of the land and all it may teach us..
Claire Lynch knows a thing or two about love of land as well. In her case that’s the hills and valleys, back roads and quiet fields of the American south. Often awarded for her gifts as a bluegrass musician, Lynch’s interests and talents span the range of what’s come to be called Americana music. Her gifts as both songwriter and singer run through the stories she tells through the songs on Dear Sister from the title track tale of a man in Civil War days thinking of his family at home to the love song that holds many meanings from romantic to spiritual in Patch of Blue.
Emigration, change, history, family: these are all part of the music the band Solas has to offer on Shamrock City When they were invited to play a festival in Butte, Montana, founding member Seamus Eagan took the chance to look into a family story about a relative who had gone to settle there. What he and his band mates found led them to create music that is grounded deeply in one man’s story and the story of one place at a time of change, and yet reaches far beyond those things. Stand out track include Far Americay and Welcome the Unknown.
“When I first moved back to Dingle, it seemed as though songs came flying at me from all sides, “ says Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. She has, and still does, travel the world with her music as lead singer with the band Danu. It is the west of Ireland which is Nic Amhlaoibh’s home place, though, where she returns to draw on the wellsprings of music she grew up with, and where she returned to work on her second solo album, Ar Uair Bhig an Lae/The Small Hours Not that all the music is sourced from Dingle -- NIc Amhlaoibh's vision is large enough to include music she’s gathered in Australia and America as well as that learned close to home -- but all the music is told in the voice and flute playing of a true storyteller of Ireland. Tracks you may want to take a first listen to include An Buachaill Caol Dubh, Another Day, and The Bold Fenian Men.
Katie McNally is a story teller as well. In he case, the stories are told through the playing of her fiddle, and she draws on the music of Scotland and its intersections with the music of America. A sure hand, a distinctive touch and a creative voice as both composer and interpreter mark Flourish, McNally’s first album. Take note especially of the Jarvis Waltz, the Bad Soup set, and Da Unst Bridal march.
Maria Dunn’s family came to Canada from their native Scotland when she was young. That’s one of the reasons, the musician thinks sheis drawn to the stories of immigrants and how people find home in a new place. On Piece by Piece these stories come from women who came to Edmonton, Alberta, to work in a garment factory. Hearing the voices of the women themselves in interviews, Dunn created music which shares stories both personal and universal as each celebrated the joys and wrestled with the challenges of such circumstances. In Dunn’s hands these voices come clear.
Clarity and connection are features of what fiddle player Juhani Silvola and fiddle player Sarah-Jane Summers offer on their recording Sarah-Jane Summers & Juhani Silvola He’s from Finland, she’s from the Highlands of Scotland, they make their home now in Oslo, and there are bits of all that in the music they bring, which includes traditional tunes and original pieces. The graceful dialogue between their istrutments invites listeners in to the conversation and sends them away with a smile, a bit of laughter a quiet reflection. It is -- as are all these albums, really -- music which you should allow to play out as the musicians have sequenced it. Outstanding tracks, though, include Lassie An’ Siller An’ A’s My Ain, Portobello Smile, and the Outlaws Don’t Dance Waltzes set.
For those links which take you to Amazon, you may wish to know that Music Road is an Amazon affiliate, which means that should you make a purchase there after following such a link, your price will not be higher but you will be helping to support Music Road. Thank you for that.
photograph is by Kerry Dexter and is copyrighted. thank you for respecting this.