musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Month: March 2019

EllaHarp’s Crazy Blues Harp Skills (and it’s not what you think)

photo: Coen Rees Photography

photo: Coen Rees Photography

When you’re in the mood for some low-down, toe-tapping blues with a solid walking bass line, I’ll bet the first instrument that comes to mind isn’t a harp. EllaHarp a.k.a. Ella Dawn Jenkins, is about to change that. She’s a San Francisco based singer-songwriter and blues harpist extraordinaire. And by “blues harpist,” I don’t mean Paul Butterfield or Sonny Boy Williamson. I mean that ancient instrument you might hear on a new age recording. On “It Ain’t Working,” EllaHarp’s supple, seductive voice slithers its way through and around her exquisite mad harp skills to brew up some serious voodoo magic.

If you think that glorious instrument is unlike any angelic and pristine harp you’ve ever come across, you’d be right. She designed it specifically for the purpose of bringing the music in her head and heart to life. In so doing, she’s pushed the medieval, stately harp into places it has never been before — to stunning effect.

Since independently releasing her debut album, Who Asked You Back just last year, EllaHarp has performed more than 100 live shows, including Bay Area festivals and radio, The Bitter End in New York City and an opening spot for Grammy Award singer Mye at Music Box in San Diego.

This amazing debut album is the culmination of 10 years of songwriting both in Scotland and Los Angeles. You can stream her album on Spotify or Bandcamp.

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Germination

Starting from a seed, carefully (obsessively) tended.
Can a new plant die from over care?

Suffocation; not allowed to grow by itself.

No trust in the natural order of things.

Fretting and worrying
stunts natural growth.

And yet, I am so halting —
and feel so very fragile.

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AKUA makes an ‘Offering’ in loving memory of her father

AKUA

AKUA (Akua Carson), a Canadian artist of Ghanaian descent, occupies the space between grief and sacredness in her quietly stunning album Them Spirits, a loving tribute to her late father. In “Offering,” she tries to make sense of the loss, and through the drifting music and her ethereal voice, the song becomes a chanted prayer.

my grief is seeping like sap
watch as my heart it falls in my lap
like some ugly offering
though it don’t make sense an once to me.
– Offering

Just months after losing her father, AKUA was asked to tour with Solange. After years of performing on some of the largest stages in the world, it became apparent that she had not faced her grief. She returned to writing songs and producing music to process this profound loss. What came from her period of self-(re)discovery has been captured on this intimate and reverent debut album.

The music was recorded in various places in Canada and Los Angeles, and the album was written, recorded and produced by AKUA. A self release, the album features musical contributions from Daniel Aged, Sam Wilkes and Mocky. AKUA is currently based in L.A.

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Rob Harris Examines an Old Wound in “Face of a Cherokee”

RobHarris

The plight of the indigenous people is an old story, part of the sad fabric of American history. And unfortunately, it is a story that continues on underprivileged reservations — rampant poverty, lack of opportunity, opioid addition and everything else that comes with a general feeling of hopelessness. UK singer songwriter Rob Harris tells this classic tale of persecution in artistically designed and deeply affecting animated video for his song, “Face of a Cherokee.” The animation is by Ashley Miles of Hot Frog Animations.

With echoes of her pain
cries out to the valley below,
what is to become of us?
– Face of a Cherokee

This song is the first single from his upcoming album, Blue Sky Morning. The song itself, while specifically about the Cherokee Indian tribe, is a strong statement against prejudices and hostile actions against all minorities. In the video’s notes, Harris describes the underlying motive behind the persecution as being “To unite a larger dominant group in their hatred of a minority and provide the opportunity to steal their possessions and land, and at same time deprive the minority group of the freedom to practice their religion or culture.” Hm, quite a lot of that going around today.

Harris envisioned that this song, with its simple and straightforward lyrics, could be sung by school children, which of course is the time when prejudices first become woven into a person’s character. His awareness of prejudice towards minorities (religious and racial) began an a young age. What he learned from history mirrored the real-life experience of his ancesters in Europe.

Musically speaking, the native drumming and backing vocals, the sound of horses’ hooves, gentle acoustic guitar and compassionate singing and powerful electric guitar — it all contributes to the raw emotion of the storytelling and is very effective.

Harris has been writing lyrics and playing guitar and drums since his early teens. In college, he studied anthropology, sociology and the history of modern art, leading him to where he finds himself today. It all makes sense. Today, he runs a video and visual communications company, and when his son started playing guitar, Rob found his interest in music rekindled.

One major theme of his new album is how people draw on their inner strength to cope with various mental challenges they face in their lives. He supports UK Charity Young Minds, an organization that helps kids with mental health issues. He’ll be donating 50% of proceeds from the album to this worthwhile charity.

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