Words and Wisdom: Songs of Change

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
May 18, 2021 / 0 comments

Music for shifting times is what we decided to name this series, back several years ago. Circumstances continue to shift, in political situations, in nature, in personal lives, in what happens day to day. In the music, there are several sorts of change, and several ways musicians have thought about and created ideas around them.

Words and Wisdom: Songs of Change

Carrie Newcomer reflects on what being in the midst of change feels like, in her song The Clean Edge of Change. Whatever sort of change, wherever it comes from, there are perceptions which continue to shift. Change is a subject Newcomer often considers through her music, at times drawing on ideas from the landscapes of her native Indiana. You will find The Clean Edge of Change on her album The Geography of Light. She sings,

First there is the folding in,
To gather light and dark to you
The journey down so far that it,
Has nowhere else to go but through

The Lost Words/Spell Songs project is a gathering of musicians who created songs inspired by the art of Jackie Morris and the words of Robert Macfarlane. That idea came about when Morris learned that certain words, most to do with nature, were to be dropped from a well-known children's dictionary. The idea of calling them back blossomed into art, word, and music.

Scatterseed is one such piece of music. Scotsman Kris Drever wrote the song and sings lead on a reflective consideration -- listen for it -- of the dandelion. You will find the song recorded on the Lost Words/Spell Songs album. Word comes that there will be a new work from the Spell Songs musicians, who include Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Seckou Keita, Bethany Porter, Rachel Newton, and Jim Molyneux, in addition to Drever. That recording is expected to appear this autumn.

Kerry Grombacher is a poet, songwriter, and thinker about the American west, past and present. That involves many ways to consider change, of course. In his song Along the John Day River, Grombacher invites listeners in to a vivid understanding of forest, river, fire, and the people who work that fire along a wild and scenic river in Oregon. You will find the song on his album called Sands Motel. Also look out for Grombacher's recent recording, Range of the Buffalo.

Setting out on a journey invites all sorts of change, for those heading out and for those staying behind. That is especially true of going to sea, in past times—and in these days, as well.  

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh lives in the seabound area of Dingle in the west of Ireland. She chose Tá Na Báid Go Doimhin Sa Bhfarraige / Síos Cois Na Trá Agus Amach Chun Na Farraige to include on her recording Thar Toinn/Seaborn. It is a song from her area of west Kerry which wishes luck and good fortune to fishermen, and that they may have safe return home. You have met Nic Amhlaoibh's work in this series before, and you will want to look for her recent EP Neadú/Nesting, as well.

In her song In the Wishing Well, Cathie Ryan adapted an idea from Noel Legnahan to take a light hearted approach to a thoughtful message. The song has a lively melody and a fast moving story, leading up to the last verse, in which Ryan sings,

I've been long up and down on the same old road
With the well and the mill and the mourning
Singing, "Fol dittle daw, dootle ditle day"
I'll be on a new road with the dawning

You will find the song recorded on Cathie Ryan's album Through Wind and Rain.

Braiding all these ideas of change together is Carrie Newcomer's song Lean in Toward the Light. You will find it recorded on her album The Beautiful Not Yet. Newcomer sings,

Winter is the oldest season
But quietly beneath the snow
Seeds are stretching out and reaching
Faithful as the morning glow

Carry nothing but what you must
Lean in toward the Light
Let it go, shake off the dust
Lean in toward the Light
Today is now, tomorrow beckons
Lean in toward the Light
Keep practicing resurrection
Lean in toward the Light



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.