Autumn Stories in Music

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Nov 19, 2019 / 0 comments

Autumn: a season turning leaves, of changes in landscape, of conversation, of reflection, of renewal. A season of preparation for holiday celebrations, and for thinking about what oncoming winter may hold. 

Autumn Stories in Music

Music and stories to go along with these ideas:

Carrie Newcomer is from Indiana. Though she has traveled the world with her music, when she comes off the road, one the things she most enjoys is walking in the woods near her home.

I've traveled through my history
From certainty to mystery..

Is just one of the great lines in her song, Leaves Don't Drop.

Perhaps one of those walks, taken in autumn, helped spark the song, which you may find on Newcomer's album The Geography of Light. You may also want to look for Newcomer's recent recording Point of Arrival.

Natalie MacMaster shares her ideas through the music she makes with her fiddle. She is from Cape Breton in Atlantic Canada, and fell in love with the sounds and stories and conversations of her home place, and with how all that connected with the fiddle, when she was small. Ever since, she has added her own creativity to conversations held through the fiddle. Along the way, she has added many awards, concert appearances, and musical collaborations. With her husband, fellow musician Donnell Leahy, she's also raising and homeschooling their seven children. Music and family life have given MacMaster a deep appreciation for the nature of change, and of changing seasons, too. That's something you will hear in the set of original and traditional tunes called Killiecrankie, which is on MacMaster's recent album, Sketches.

Political ideas are often aspects as autumn conversations. One way to think about present political changes is to consider the past. The song Both Sides the Tweed, written by Scotsman Dick Gaughan and perhaps based on an earlier song from the tradition, is one way to do this. It speaks of the history of Scotland, but many of the ideas are both timeless and may speak to other places, even as they continue to resonate in Scotland. This is a vintage video clip of the song, as sung by the band Capercaillie with Karen Matheson on lead, recorded on New Year's Eve as 1991 turned to 1992. You may find it on Capercaillie's album Sidewaulk. You may also like to explore Capercaillie's recent album At the Heart of It All, and Karen Matheson's solo recording, called Urram.

You could take Dougie Maclean's song Ready for the Storm in a number of ways. Perhaps it's a love song, a song about politics, a song a about spiritual matters, one about seasonal change, and many other things. It is sung here by Kathy Mattea, recorded some years back as part of the Transatlantic Sessions with Dougie Maclean and Molly Mason on backing vocals. It is called Ready for the Storm, and you will find it on Mattea's album, Time Passes By. You may also want to give a listen to Mattea's recent album, Pretty Bird.

Autumn conversations often come about as people gather, friends and strangers, traveling or at home, making new connections and remembering lasting ones. That happens in personal relationship and in geography in the traditional song, Banks of the Foyle. Cara Dillon, who is from Derry on the banks of the Foyle in Northern Ireland, sings it here, and you may find it on her album, Wanderer.

Autumn conversations often reflect on events of the year and come about because of a season's gatherings too. Those ideas are part the  aspects of a year's changing seasons in Molly Mason's song Bound for Another Harvest Home (yes, she's the same Molly Mason who backs up Kathy Mattea at Transatlantic Sessions in the video above).

There's a whole story of harvest in Mason's song, which while grounded in working the land can well apply to other fields, as well. You may find it on the album Harvest Home, which Mason recorded with her husband, fiddle player and composer Jay Ungar. They have recorded other albums since; you may want to see A Fiddler's Holiday.

In the first song in this story, one of the lines Carrie Newcomer sings is 'a tree is what a seed contains.' In Bound for Another Harvest Home, Mason sings 'each seed holds a perfect plan in harmony with earth and man,..." Two poetic ways to speak of change, growth, and possibility.

Change of seasons, conversations across places and generations, and memories of harvest are part of autumn, even as the work of harvest is not always part of day to day life for many as often as it once was. As we experience changes of seasons in many ways and sort them all out together in gatherings, in music, in reflection, in conversation, I will leave you with the last verse of Molly Masons' song Bound for Another Harvest Home

Bound for another harvest home
We'll dance to changing rhythms as the seasons come and go
Soon a time will come to rest, and know that man and earth are blest
They're bound for another harvest home
We're all bound for another harvest home.



Thank you for staying with us through this journey. Below, you'll find a link that will take you to an article which has a bit more backstory on the series. It also has links to a number of the stories, including ones called Listening for Community, Music for Winter's Changes, and The Geography of Hope.

Music for Shifting Times

Music for Shifting Times




Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road.