Greetings! How are things back at the old homestead? I was glad to hear from you and glad to hear that things are working out for you. I’m actually writing this letter to let you know about some music that I heard recently. It really had an impact on me and I’m sure it will on you. Remember the type of music we use to listen to back home? Whether it was on the radio, someone in the family or even someone from the neighborhood, the sound of one person singing with a guitar will always bring me back there. I guess they still call it folk music, but I just call it home. Anyway, the singer is a woman named Meg Baird. She’s from Philadelphia, which isn’t exactly the first place from which you’d expect a folk singer to emerge, but she’s fantastic.
She’s in a group called Espers most of the time. They’ve released a couple of albums and a couple EP’s so far. I read somewhere that Espers is considered psych-folk, whatever that means. You might like them too. One of their EPs is pretty much all covers of great folk and folk-rock songs. Anyway, Meg Baird plays with them, but her first CD on her own is very different. She has a voice that’s perfectly suited for folk songs. Think along the lines of Joni Mitchell or Gillian Welch and you’ll understand. When you listen to the album, you feel as though she’s in the room with you, singing the songs for you personally, and there’s almost nothing more intimate than that. You know how girls swoon over male acoustic singer / songwriters? Well, I guess the same is true with the genders reversed.
Most of the songs on the album are traditional folk songs like “The Cruelty of Barbary Allen,” “Sweet William and Fair Ellen,” and “Willie O’Winsbury.” She also covers other folk singers and other classic folk songs, but some of the most impressive tracks on the CD are written by Meg herself. Those songs are called “Riverhouse in Tinicum” and “Maiden in the Moor Lay.” She even sings the song “Do What You Gotta Do” which has been performed by artists ranging from the Four Tops to Linda Rondstadt to Tom Jones! And let me tell you something, they’ve got nothing on my Meg. Yes, I’ve claimed her as my own, mostly because I feel like I’ve found some lost treasure. It’s like when Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny came up from tunneling to find a cave full of loot and Daffy starts jumping up and down on Bugs’ head, stuffing him back into the rabbit hole, shouting, “Back! Back! Back! Down! Down! Down! Mine! Mine! Mine!”
Anyway, you should really pick up this CD. I know you’ll like it, and I know it will remind you of home. It will make you feel safe, as if you’re with friends or family for the night, letting yourself relax and hear stories told to you with just a voice and a guitar. The difference being, the folks we know back home could never sound as good as Meg Baird does. One of the gems on this record is a song called “The Waltze of the Tennis Players.” There’s just something about this song, originally written by a Canadian duo that seems to defy time. This is how it is with each of these songs. Meg Baird has chosen songs to perform, as well as writing a few of her own, that seem in no way anachronistic. Although some of these tracks are decades old, in Meg’s able hands and voice they seem fresh and new. I read somewhere that she purposefully selected songs that didn’t seem tiresome the more you heard them. Well, she succeeded. Oh, and don’t press stop after the last listed track, there’s a hidden a cappella version of “Dear Companion” that will blow you away. Well, I’ve gotta go. I miss you and I hope to hear from you soon.
Your Dear Companion,
Gillian Welch- Time (The Revelator)
Emmylou Harris- Pieces of the Sky
Joni Mitchell- Blue