A Musical Interlude

Bill Caraher |

There’s a lot going on these days. From the slow churn of election results to the rapid increase in COVID cases, every day feels syncopated with moments of stress and hope. It’s exhausting.

I often find some peace in music and thought that I should share some of the more recent additions to my current play list.

This week, I’ve been entranced by Adrienne Lenker’s new album, from her double album Songs and Instrumentals. Listening to an album of just Lenker and her guitar is distinctly COVID friendly. You do not have to invite an entire band into your bubble and her ethereal voice while recorded close, keeps her songs at a respectful distance despite the intimate lyrics. Think of this as a quiet chat with a close friend over a camp fire.

With the election results still uncertain and seemingly every major publication reporting on America’s demise, I felt the need to reconnect with the United States, its troubled history, and untapped potential.

I’ve been listening to percussionist Kahil El’Zabar’s new album America the Beautiful which begins and concludes with intriguing variations on that song. While the album isn’t as compelling as some of his earlier albums (especially Archie Shepp Meets Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio: Conversations (1999) or Renaissance of the Resistance (1994)), this album speaks to our current situation.

Finally, this summer as the COVID pandemic relaxed to a low simmer, the Sun Ra Arkestra under the ageless Marshall Allen released its first studio album in over 20 years. It’s called Swirling.

This album is not about social distancing. The full Arkestra will be in your house and in your face playing. They mainly play songs from Sun Ra’s massive oeuvre, but in the great tradition of Ra, it’s all new. It’s post-COVID, post-election, post-America music. It’s not about here and now. It’s about the past, the future, outer space, inner space, and most of all love.

And we all need more love.


Bill Caraher is not the music editor of NDQ.

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