FEATHER & A LEAF
[Editorial disclosure/confession: Merry Ellen Kirk’s vinyl release (“Feather & a Leaf,” 2014), is on our record label, Untide Records. So yes, I’m a music reviewer promoting one of our own. Just pretend this isn’t me writing, if that makes it easier or seem more fair.
In hard times, love and songwriting become punk—the ultimate protest, the ultimate rebellion, saying to the world in the most direct way possible, that you don’t want to do what you’re told. Punk is more than protest, though. You want to build something separate from the manipulation of the manipulators. And that’s where personal freedom lives today. Forget about fighting with people who want to fight. Walk away and build whatever you want to build. Move to some quiet town and write songs with your friends. We all know how much has been destroyed over the past decade or so. Any tiny act of DIY “opting out” stands in marked contrast to the spirit-killing mainstream.
Merry Ellen Kirk has done just that. She’s already established herself as a solo singer/songwriter across four song collections and music videos, as well as being a member of another cool band, The Shakespeares (with the equally brilliant singer/songwriter, Aaron Krause). By luck or accident or fate, she was cast adrift into this cold, modern world, which has done nothing to dampen her sweet spirit or her 1940s vocal vibe. In fact, I think it makes her work deeper and more significant in ways that might not be easily spotted at first. Like A Fine Frenzy (Alison Sudol) or Missy Higgins, Kirk’s voice and lyrics and songwriting style, at times sentimental and sweet, at other times full of quiet longing with hints of sadness, evoke new-wave feminism. Punk is about self-expression, and Kirk’s career finds its way back to the explosive Riot Grrrl movement that freed artists previously ignored.
Yes, you can still find a lot to read about the glass ceiling women face in the recording studio and recording industry. It’s still out there, with the music industry’s (even some Indie labels’) stupid roleplaying games about what women should do with their music and images. I’m not suggesting that there’s been any kind of active oppression of Kirk’s music or career. In fact, Kirk’s work has emerged, like Sudol’s and Higgins’, precisely because the industry is broken and searching for itself. The breakdown in the old ways of control has opened the landscape for many artists to go DIY and produce the kinds of music they want to create.
“Feather & a Leaf” is a “live” studio performance of seven sweet songs entirely shaped by Kirk. Even with the high romanticism of her song lyrics and style, this is pure fourth- or fifth-wave feminism (whatever we’re up to now).
In addition to “Feather & a Leaf,” she’s released two other full-length albums: “Firefly Garden” (2011) and the powerful “Invisible War” (2009). She also has a four-song EP of holiday songs called “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (2009). Until now, her albums have been available only on CD or as download. This Untide Records release of “Feather & a Leaf,” her seven-song collection recorded live in 2012, is her debut on vinyl.
Kirk’s album is structured as a complete listening experience, for slow listening and appreciation, the reason the “long-playing” vinyl record was invented in the first place. “Feather & a Leaf” is a delicious, retro listening experience. Welcome to vinyl and to Untide Records, where it’s all about appreciating music and getting your DIY on.
TO ORDER “Feather & a Leaf”: $18.00 + $5.00 shipping and handling. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org (until our label website is launched—soon; we’ll send you a Paypal link).