Music for Shifting Times: Lighting the Path

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

Light to dark and back again, times and news and stories shift. Music for Shifting Times is what we decided to call this series about music. It proved more prescient than we could have known back when we began.

What lights the path, where and how to draw strength when darkness closes in and challenges rise is one of the ideas that is a constant in what I share with you.

Here are four varied ways in which musicians consider this, through songs you may not have heard before. 

Music for Shifting Times: Lighting the Path

Turning to nature is one way to seek solace. Robert Burns left a fragment of a song, which Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine chose to use as the chorus of a song they wrote. It speaks of the presence of nature and the power of love in the face of change and challenge. The song is called Leezie Lindsay. Eddi Reader sings it here, with backing from John Doyle, John McCusker, and other artists of the Transatlantic Sessions house band. Eddi has recorded the song in several places. One good place to find it is on the album Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Robert Burns. Look for the deluxe edition, which contains songs not on the first release of that album. You may also want to see Eddi's recent recording called Cavalier.

Challenge, change, hardship, and hope thread through Calum MacCrimmon's song Winter Winds. As you might expect from the title, he uses images of winter to frame the story he tells. Not all is bleak and frozen, however:

Keep an eye on the horizon
Even when the nights are long

Give it time
And the sky will change


If you see me falling behind
I hope you know
I'm coming round

Calum MacCrimmon is a member of the band Breabach. Winter Winds is recorded on their album Frenzy of the Meeting.

One summer evening, Emily Smith was walking back to her home in the southwest of Scotland. Seeing lighted windows sparked her songwriter's imagination, leading her to write what became the song Sunset Hymn. The power of love and family, connection to nature, and savouring moments of peace all are aspects she brings into the the song. Here Emily performs it with her musical partner and husband Jamie McClennan. You may find the song on her album Too Long Away. You may also want to explore Emily's album Echoes, and the duo's recording Smith & McClennan Unplugged.

Bringing all these ideas together is the song Just a Journey, written by Steve Cooney and sung here by Mary Black with Steve sitting in on guitar. There's more than a bit of the mystical in the song, as well as landscape, hope, faith, and poetry. 

A journey of a spirit 
through a lifetime's changing
rearranging your own self
in accordance with the light

Those are just a few of the fine and thought provoking lines in Just a Journey. You may find the song recorded on the album The Best of Mary Black Volume 2. You might also wish to explore Mary's recent recordings Mary Black Sings Jimmy McCarthy and By the Time It Gets Dark 30th Anniversary Edition.

As we travel through these shifting times together, may this music help to light your path.




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



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.