– – – – – –
June 26, 2020
Since mid-March of this year, we’ve all slowed down. The pandemic has demanded that we abandon our usual blinding pace of life and shelter in place. We’ve all had more time than we ever expected to examine our lives during these days of pause and seclusion. Most of my friends have been excavating forgotten corners of their homes and offices and sharing their discoveries. In that spirit, I sat down today and listened to an album of mine, Butterfly for the first time since completing it three years ago. Two time worn (but painfully true) phrases are ringing in my ears now: “lost in the din” and “fallen between the cracks”. Butterfly was released, to very little fanfare, in late June of 2017 as part of a ten-solo album retrospective box set. I had a funny notion that its inclusion would create incentive for people to invest in the archaic format of a box of compact discs. I also created a bonus disc of curated obscure tracks and called it Rarities. After weeks of combing my archive, I put together a collection including: collaborations with David Byrne, Billy Bragg, Amy Helm, The Chieftains and Cowboy Junkies, live performances, studio outtakes, and unreleased covers by songwriters, Katell Keineg, Randy Newman, Ray Davies, Buddy Holly, and Joel Zoss. We held back the digital release of both these discs for a year to ensure that the box was unique. What a brilliant scheme!
Then I bought a derelict house, demolished and rebuilt it, my daughter dislocated her knee and needed surgery, we moved and settled her into her new school, my assistant quit, I changed management companies, toured the States, toured the UK, toured the States again, did a string of benefits, started a high school scholarship program, sat on a couple non-profit boards, helped get a progressive congressman elected, piloted a multi-year music and poetry program for underserved urban preschoolers, sewed 250 costumes for several children’s plays, had a physical collapse, then spine surgery followed by recovery, and completely forgot about the master plan for my string quintet album and treasure box of rare tracks.
So, Butterfly, this lovely and delicate piece of work has waited patiently for three years to be noticed, even by the woman who made it. The album is made up of 10 songs, both new and previously released, all arranged for string quintet. Since 2010 I’ve performed mainly as soloist with string ensembles and chamber orchestras and developed a repertoire of thirty-five songs. I love the subtle emotional quality strings give to my songs and it’s such a pleasure to reinterpret them in this way. In 2015, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of my first solo album, Tigerlily with an album featuring quintet versions of that material and with Butterfly, I was able to give “My Skin”, “Frozen Charlotte”, “Ophelia” and “The Worst Thing” the same attention. I’ve carried these songs a great distance with me and it’s interesting to hear how they have changed over the years.
There are four songs included in this album that I think represent some of the best songwriting of my career, the title track, “Butterfly”, “She Devil”, “Baby Mine” and “Andalucía”. Written over a period of 20 years, these songs represent such different phases of my life and career. What they all share in common is that none of them fit into previous recording projects or I was unable to capture a performance that did them justice. Listening to them today, I hear how they truly belong together. We have all found ourselves living through a very frightening period of history. Our rare and exceedingly beautiful planet is in peril and all the creatures (our species included) feel on the brink of chaos. The systems that we invented and that have formed the foundations of our cultures for centuries are now proving to be lethal to our survival.
We moved too far and too fast. Contrary to natural law, we had the audacity to expect nature to adapt to us, rather than the opposite. In the face of crisis, we still search for meaning and reach out for beauty. I hope that Butterfly is received as my offering of beauty and meaning for these times and that it gives solace to anyone willing to listen.