Songs of Water are set to release one of the most beautiful records of 2010, unveiling a new line-up and a fully refined sound that is uniquely their own. “The Sea Has Spoken” is at once compelling and soothing, thought provoking and soul affirming. Melding disparate musical styles and eclectic influences from the world over, this second album from Songs of Water is the sound of a band that has found its sea legs.
Formed in 2002, Songs of Water’s newest record is cinematic in style and sound. Almost completely instrumental, it draws on inspiration from the best Americana traditions, coupled with an international sound that harkens back to traditional music found throughout a myriad of nations.
Stephen Roach (vocals, guitar, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, percussion, tenor banjo) revels in the “cross pollination” found within the band’s members and their individual talents.
“One of the unique qualities about the band is that most of our backgrounds are very different than one another. Luke Skaggs (violin, guitar, lap steel, percussion, backing vocals, tenor banjo) and Molly Skaggs (vocals, accordian, banjo) grew up with a strong bluegrass heritage thanks to Ricky Skaggs being their dad. I had that heritage as well, as my father’s a bluegrass musician and Tony Rice is my cousin.”
But don’t mistake the sounds at work on “The Sea Has Spoken” as being purely bluegrass in nature. Roach cites a multitude of influences for all the band members.
“Luke and I both went into a different direction from our roots and studied the folk music of other cultures: Classical Indian music, along with West African and Arabic percussion. Molly studied Appalachian folk music. Marta Richardson (violin) and Sarah Stephens (cello, vocals) are both classically trained musicians who have played in the symphony.”
The line-up is completed by Jason Windsor (classical, acoustic & baritone guitar, mandolin), Greg Willette (bass guitar, acoustic guitar), and Michael Pritchard (drums, percussion, hammered dulcimer, acoustic guitar). “The Sea Has Spoken” also features guest spots from Mark Daumen of Chapel Hill-based Lost in the Trees and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs.
What began as a loose community of friends has evolved into a tightly knit family. The warmth of the personal connections within Songs of Water is woven throughout the music they craft, though Roach is quick to point out that it’s coupled with great passion, a concept that’s central to the band’s name itself.
“The music pulls you into a deeper, perhaps even spiritual experience.
I think the impetus for creating the band was a desire to share that experience with others. As we began to play out more, the band became known as the Songs of Water, and it just stuck. Over time its meaning has continued to unfold, so I think now it rightly fits. Water can be a peaceful stream or it can be a violent tsunami. Our music has that same tendency from moment to moment. It may be a contemplative classical guitar one moment or a raging orchestra of percussion the next.”