Music for living through changing times

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Jan 15, 2024 / 0 comments

Shifting times seem to be the usual state of things these days. Thinking about and working through the changes such situations bring is something musicians face and consider in their work, too.

Here are aspects of shifting times and living in them through music.

Music for living through changing times

Start with a Stone has lyrics which can be taken in a number of ways: back to basics, clearing the decks, moving on and such are some of those ways. You could also take them as invitation or metaphor for starting over, or for taking a pause or taking a walk to clear your head. Or going ‘back to your home,’ as the lyrics say, could come about in thought or a trip or reading a favorite book one more time. The song has a catchy melody that’ll likely stay in your mind, too. See what all this brings up for you. The song was written by Indiana-based Carrie Newcomer and Georgia-based John McCutcheon; you will find it recorded on Carrie Newcomer's album A Great Wild Mercy.

Nuala Kennedy comes from Ireland. The singer, flute player, and composer grew up near its east coast in Louth and now lives near its west coast in Clare. The changing aspects of seacoasts are what inspired her to write the tunes Whirlpools and The Lighthouse Polka. You’ll hear the sea in the music. Tony Byrne on guitar, Todd Sickafoose on bass, and Tara Breen on fiddle join Nuala’s flute for the set. You will find it recorded on Nuala Kennedy’s album Shorelines.

Second wind seems a state often needed these days. Claire Lynch has great song about the feeling. It’s been a while since I pointed you to Claire’s music. It’s well worth your time; you will find many songs that make good companions through shifting times in the songs Claire writes herself and those she chooses to cover. You will find Second Wind recorded on her album Moonlighter; you may also want to check out the album North by South, in which Claire pays tribute to the work of her favorite Canadian songwriters. Alison Brown, whose music you’ve met in this series before, produced North by South.

Hanneke Cassel grew up on the US west Coast, in Oregon. Ever since she came east to attend Berklee College of Music, though, she’s chosen to base herself in the Boston area.  When she performs, she will often mention that she takes commissions to write tunes for special occasions or for someone to give as a gift. That’s how her set Serendipity/Making Tracie Smile came about, as it turned out with a twist that made Cassel herself smile. A couple attended one of her gigs and heard that invitation. Unbeknownst to each other, husband and wife independently decided to commission a special tune for one to give the other. It took a bit of work to keep the surprise going, Cassel recalls, but they did it. You will find the set recorded on Hanneke Cassel’s album Infinite Brightness. Jenna Moynihan on five string fiddle, Keith Murphy on guitar, and Tristan Clarridge on cello join in.

Eddi Reader is from Scotland and loves her native land. Earlier in her career, her music had taken her to London, where she was living and missing Scotland. Her friend John Douglas knew of this and wrote the song Wild Mountainside to recognize that longing, and to call her home, so to speak. Eddi did move back. Some years on, John and Eddi married—in Scotland, where they still live. You will find it recorded on the album Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns.Though it is not a Burns song, it stands well in good company there. You may also wish to see Eddi’s recent album Light is in the Horizon, and John’s self titled album John Douglas.

Shorelines to gifts of tunes, seeking bedrock stability to enjoying a second wind, finding your way home with the help of a friend: all subjects for music which will make good companion through these shifting times.



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 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.