GDW Musings: Emily Millard – “By Heron & By Season”

During our recent trip to Toronto, I was determined to find a copy of Emily Millard’s new project, “By Heron & By Season.”  It took several stops but we finally snagged a CD – and I am so happy we did.

In my life of music fandom, I have often found that albums find you as much as you find them, at exactly the right time in your life when you need most to hear the songs.  This particular album has arrived during one of my occasional seasons of anxiety and uncertainty, themes that are thoroughly explored by Millard.

It’s a challenge to define Millard’s genre – to do so would be to pigeonhole her work unfairly.  To me, these songs feel like an intimate chamber music performance with occasional diversions into jazz and pop.  The spare but lovely string arrangements complement the lyrics perfectly – and the lyrics shine at least as much if not more than the music (which is gorgeous).  Here is one example, from “Chainbreaker”: “how simple / how perfect / how clear the path / you fear it / draw near it.”  The themes of facing one’s demons, of stepping beyond one’s fears, are threaded throughout the project.

The transition from Section A to Section B (as the songs are divided) is marked by the uptempo surprise of “As a Cloud,” whose lyrics once again hit me right where I need them most: “didn’t know lightness / was a place I had to climb / minute by minute.”

The penultimate track, “Hourglass,” provides another surprise with a bass line and groove that reminded me somewhat of Carole King.

I very much hope to have the chance to hear Millard perform these songs live – this CD was well worth the time it took to find it, and I look forward to hearing more from this very talented artist.

~ L

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