Some say music has a power to heal – an elixir buried within the frequencies, hidden amongst the harmonics, something about sympathetic vibrations. Some say it’s the lyric, the cadence of vowels and syllables, the way words fall upon the ear and resonate within the heart. If music is a nostrum, which some magic sorceress might pour lovingly upon a wounded soul, then this song might bear such a resemblance.
“Rest,” the latest single by Sleeping Bees, released just last Sunday in time for ‘the new spring,’ is a testament to the infinite power of music and moreover, the infinite power of prayer.
With “Rest,”’ the Toronto-based folk trio, Sleeping Bees (Kathryn Merriam, Madison Arsenault, and Reid Zoé) have engaged the ancient powers of songwriting in a simple, yet celebratory invocation to healing. Almost shamanist in its soft vocal refrain and choruses, the singers chant, quietly, harmoniously, in unison and individually, repeatedly calling and responding, the evocation, “Heal me.”
The lyric is deceptively modest. Outlining the toil of planting, of hands in soil, the conversation every gardener knows between loam and touch, earth and dirt. The spirits swirl around sprouting leaves and songbird in a bright summer sunlight. Using the most elemental of compositional approach, accompanied by sparse guitar and banjo, Sleeping Bees transport the eye immediately to the scene, a newness of growing and the rhythm of work with hands, back bent, mind relaxed, emotions open and alert.
Of course, there is also the endless possibility of metaphor; the lyric and the songwriter are the ground that works in harmony, sometimes left fallow, sometimes left to rest. Or an even more insightful interpretation might conclude that the lyric is a call – a mantra of sorts, to unseen forces and timing. The risk always involved is that we never understand or correlate the moment of genuine sincerity with the impact that finally unfolds. Maybe it doesn’t even matter.
Two years have passed since the Bees released “Heavy,” their 2020 EP. In the interim, Reid Zoé, released her beautiful, sensitive EP, “Shed My Skin,” in June 2021, which I enjoyed reviewing for Great Dark Wonder. While Zoé showed a distinctive styling as a solo artist, Sleeping Bees possess their own special magic.
That “Rest” finds its way into the world at this precarious moment is not a mere coincidence. This song is how people of conscience now feel toward disappearing, endangered species, melting ice caps, and unheeded warnings. Humans stand on a precipice that cannot be ignored – a crossroads that point toward far unknown futures outcomes.
“It gives the gift of yarrow, in and out we breathe,” the songwriter implores, with her fellow singers. The gift of yarrow – the talisman of ancient divination, the seducer of bees no longer sleeping, waits in prayers and in a small healing moment of song.
Photo Credit: Andy Ince