DEEPEST DARKNESS, BRIGHTEST DAWN
This Fall Gaelynn was busy working on a holiday-themed solo album, “Deepest Darkness, Brightest Dawn“. It arrived in time for the holiday season and offers her beautiful and otherworldly takes on a collection of Christmas-themed songs. Lea’s violin playing is the centerpiece of the mostly instrumental set, which also includes her vocals on three tracks.
“Christmas has always been my favorite time of year–something about the snow and the shorter days; the twinkling lights and the music and the time spent with family—they all have a certain coziness and magic to them that just aren’t there the rest of the year,” Lea explains. “So as soon as I recorded my first full-length album in November 2015, I knew I’d want to tackle a Christmas album shortly afterwards.”
The album, recorded at Sacred Heart Music Center in Lea’s hometown of Duluth, MN, comprises all the holiday’s songs that she personally has enjoyed over the years. “I really love the old, traditional carols that have been around forever,” she notes. “Some of them will be very recognizable to people and a few are a bit more obscure. I wanted to make these old melodies come alive again by creating a listening adventure for people of all ages.”
Much as she did with the selections on her first solo album, which paid homage to traditional Celtic fiddle tunes, Lea utilized a unique approach to stamp the carols with her musical signature—a winding and haunting sonic underlay achieved with a looping pedal. “I used the pedal to craft layered, meandering tracks; and I often combine different tunes in unexpected ways,” she explains. “I also tried include a wide range of moods on this album.”
Gaelynn reunited with sound engineer Jake Larson, who worked with her on her first solo album, to record her new set, but chose to handle production duties herself—“I had a very clear vision of what I wanted it to sound like in the end.” Fellow Minnesota musician Al Church added guitar, Rhodes, and percussion on half of the tracks.
“It is my hope that people will see the finished product as a sonic journey through the Christmas season — the darkness of winter contrasted with the bright light of hope,” says Lea. “I would love this album to become a new holiday tradition for families everywhere.”
A physical copy of the CD can be purchased here. It is also available for digital download at iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Google Play, Bandcamp and CD Baby. The worldwide release for this album was November 11, 2016.
“‘Deepest Darkness, Brightest Dawn’ is a 14-song album that is mainly made up of Lea’s violin, with her voice appearing only briefly here and there. The record as a whole feels unified, almost as if it’s one long Christmas medley that Lea sings over when the spirit strikes her. Again, as with her last release, Lea sticks mainly to playing the violin with a loop pedal, which allows her to layer herself multiple times over for an effect that exists in a liminal space between ethereal beauty and experimental music. It’s a thin line, but there are times when these songs go from something resembling standard orchestral music to a more nontraditional place where people like Philip Glass reside.
It’s in the looping, in the way Lea builds up the foundations of each track and then adds her Celtic-influenced melodic playing over the top of it all. On each track, Lea makes her violin sing in traditional and nontraditional ways. It’s always gorgeous though. Her pitch is great, and her vibrato is, too. She’s able to loop seamlessly for optimum spell-casting.
As usual, Lea’s vocals sound great and uniquely her own. Her singing is a match for her violin playing in the way it trembles and lilts. It’s right on the money, but it also has plenty of character that keeps it sounding sincere and unabashedly human.
Really, “Deepest Darkness, Brightest Dawn” is a lovely piece of ambient Christmas music that shares a lot in common with traditional orchestra holiday music while also being its own entity. It feels like the perfect album to zone out to while you put on a fire and sip something hot. Indeed, Gaelynn Lea’s Christmas album might be the ultimate soundtrack for getting cozy this winter.”
-Tony Bennett , Duluth News Tribune
THE SONGS WE SING ALONG THE WAY
Just 6 months after winning NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest and traveling the country with Tiny Desk On The Road, Duluth violinist and vocalist Gaelynn Lea released a new 6-track EP, “The Songs We Sing Along the Way“. This recording is a blend of Lea’s original songs, traditional fiddle tunes, and even her own poetry.
Lea identifies equally as a songwriter and a fiddler, so much like her debut solo album “All the Roads that Lead Us Home” (2015) she constructed this EP to be a winding exploration of both art forms. She once again utilizes a looping pedal to layer the sounds from her violin, developing a meditative sonic landscape that creates a kind of mental journey for the listener.
Unlike Gaelynn’s solo album, which was extremely minimalist in its approach (Gaelynn’s violin and vocals were the only sounds on the album), this time Gaelynn Lea chose to collaborate with Minneapolis songwriter, guitarist and percussionist Alan Church (BBGUN, Al Church and State). He skillfully added texture and color to each track as they improvised together in The Pearl Recording Studio in the Twin Cities.
This self-produced project was recorded and mixed by Zachary Hollander and mastered by Robert Hadley. Gaelynn Lea hopes this EP will provide the listener with a sense hope – these are personal tracks that speak to the often-messy human experience – and an appreciation of what the violin can do and has done for hundreds of years.
You can purchase a physical copy of Gaelynn’s new EP here. In addition, the album is available for digital download worldwide at these online stores: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, and CD Baby. “The Songs We Sing Along the Way” was released on August 15th, 2016.
“Lea’s latest release “The Songs We Sing Along the Way” is a collection of simple, spare songs that depend mostly on Lea’s often-mournful fiddle and sweet -yet-weathered voice. Lea focuses on alternating between instrumentals and vocal numbers, taking her time with each, patiently letting them unfurl. One of the main pleasures of Lea’s music — as with the music of Alan Sparhawk, her frequent collaborator and partner in The Murder of Crows — is that it doesn’t seem that it’s in any hurry to get anywhere, and it respectfully asks you to settle in a bit, put down the cellphone and listen.
She’s got a real knack for a lyric that has some bite to it — and she also is great at making suggestions for course-correction in her music. Many folkies these days ascribe to greatness but fail because they rely too heavily on strident, heavy-handed proclamations or judgments. Lea, it seems, is gentle in spirit, yet she’s unafraid to take a stance. That’s a balance that many get wrong.
Lea’s song “Someday We’ll Linger in the Sun” is the one she performed in her Tiny Desk submission video, and it’s the centerpiece of this collection. It’s a truly gorgeous, heartbreaking song, one of the best to come out of Duluth in the last handful of years, at least, and it attracted attention from NPR for good reason. And, while it’s definitely the standout, this isn’t to say that the other traditional fiddle tunes and originals that surround it on the EP aren’t worth the time. Indeed, the whole thing is quite impressive.
Once again, Lea proves she’s a powerful craftswoman, a spellbinding singer and a violinist with a solid understanding of how to conjure a mood. “The Songs We Sing Along the Way” is definitely one of the best local releases of the year.“
– Tony Bennett, Duluth News Tribune
ALL THE ROADS THAT LEAD US HOME
Gaelynn Lea has been playing violin for over 20 years and has contributed to about half a dozen albums so far (most notably with The Murder of Crows, Snöbarn, and The Getarounds) but one thing she had never done before was to record a solo album. So in the autumn as the leaves changed, Gaelynn Lea captured her evolving sound as she looped and improvised to her favorite fiddle tunes.
Gaelynn’s debut solo album, “All the Roads that Lead Us Home” pays homage to the traditional fiddle tunes and standards that Gaelynn has been playing for over a decade. But of course there is a twist! Gaelynn used her beloved Memory Man Pedal to create winding layers of sound underneath these familiar melodies. The album is mostly instrumental in nature, although Gaelynn included two vocal tracks to help create a more diverse sonic landscape for the listener.
You can purchase a physical copy of Gaelynn’s CD here. The album is available for digital download at these online stores: iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, and CD Baby. “All the Roads that Lead Us Home” was released on November 1st, 2015.
“Gaelynn Lea has done it exactly right on her debut solo album, All the Roads that Lead Us Home. The album is constructed simply — most of it is Lea playing her violin into an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man pedal, building layers one by one of her striking, tremulous playing. There are a couple of vocal tracks, but the record is basically just Lea doing live looping. This could get old really fast, but Lea smartly, tastefully builds her loops bit by bit, block by block, each step leading into the next. They’re little evolving symphonies.
Lea takes a meditative approach, building loops that are based on sustained notes and vibrato, loops that seem like she’s scoring a sunrise on a winter morning. Yearning, reaching melodies emerge from the wash of sound and then recede into the background. Chords are flittingly outlined as root notes collide with thirds or fifths or sevenths. It’s all very ephemeral and gauzy, and the tracks are easy to get lost in.
Lea’s two vocal tracks are nicely placed on the record. Her folky singing is of a piece with her playing, and it’s not jarring at all when it comes in, even though it’s the only other instrument on the album next to the violin.
All the Roads that Lead Us Home is a focused, vibrant piece of music by a person who is able to take a solitary instrument and make it sound like a full string arrangement, who can fill a full-length LP with mostly just those sounds and communicate fluently her heart and soul with only a few tools.”
– Tony Bennett, Duluth News Tribune
GAELYNN LEA APPAREL AND ACCESSORIES
Promote independent music and support small business by ordering a Gaelynn Lea shirt, tote bag, or glass ornament! Gaelynn Lea has teamed up with I Work & Play in Des Moines, where you can order her musically-inspired clothing & fun accessories on a safe and secure online storefront! I Work & Play is a direct-to-garment specialty printing company owned by music enthusiast John Bartlett. All t-shirts and tote bags are Union printed and made in the USA. The art is inspired by the work of Duluth-based graphic design company Stigsell Creative. Order online here!
GAELYNN LEA’S OTHER ALBUMS
Over the years Gaelynn Lea has collaborated with a number of musical projects who have produced their own distinct recordings. You can purchase two of these albums at the links below:
- The Getarounds – Live EP (2013): Download from Bandcamp