"On Jacaranda, his third album, Garrels simply does what he’s done before, but better. At heart a gentle folkie, Garrels picks his guitar (and what sounds like the charango, although the instrumental credits don’t tell), and sings his contemplative, mystical songs. His subjects – the wonders of the natural world, the still, small voice of God, the sorrows and joys of life on a fallen, dazzling planet – call to mind a young Bruce Cockburn, drunk on beauty, ripped apart by injustice and casual indifference. They are complex, nuanced, and lovely.
The two instrumentals that bookend the album set the tone: pastoral, quiet, soft enough to allow room for the chirp of crickets and the song of birds. In between the music shimmers and shines and continually escapes easy categorization; a straightforward folkie ballad here, a neo-soul workout with a hint of electronica there, a reggae-tinged spiritual lament here, a Peruvian cumbia there, with a choir of the angelic host breaking in occasionally just to mix things up. Garrels’ voice is wondrously supple throughout, and it’s a joy to listen to him soar into a pure, soulful falsetto. He sings about the birth of a child, the funeral of a loved one, the desert fathers of the early Church, the exploitation of the poor, the soul-crushing demands of the drab and routine, the subtle joys of walking by faith in the darkness. It’s a kaleidoscope of an album, every pattern reflecting an unseen but loving hand." - Andy Whitman (chief editor for Paste Magazine)
Jacaranda was written and recorded in the solitude of an old mansion, at the end of a gravel road, on the banks of the Mississinewa River in Indiana. Many years ago the same house was in the underground railroad as a place of refuge for escaping slaves, and later, in the 1920\'s, infamous bank robbers such as John Dillinger used the mansion as a safe-house in between their criminal exploits. In the tradition of using the home as a place of safe harbor for those on the move, the current owners Bill and Robin Lett invited me and my wife Michelle to live on the estate (which Bill affectionately calls "the pig farm") while recording this album. We took them up on their offer, and moved into the secluded manor as the summer months were drawing to an end.
As we watched the seasons change from summer to fall, winter to spring, we wrote, created and sang, all the while stalking the majestic Great Blue Heron along the banks of the river. The most recent season brought the death of a father, David Ramsdale, and the birth of our first child, Heron Selah Garrels.
Jacaranda is the name of a tropical tree, native to the jungle of Peru where my wife grew up. When Michelle moved to Indiana to marry me, she knew she would be "a jacaranda tree in Indiana, green-housed but sung to". This tree has become a strong symbol in this album, and in our family as well, of welcoming displacement as we wander the earth.