Song Premiere: Laurie Lewis, “Trees”

Multi-GRAMMY nominee and IBMA Award winner Laurie Lewis knew just where she finished the song “Trees,” the title track of her stunning new album, Trees, which releases on May 31 on her own label Spruce and Maple Music. “It was at the Freight & Salvage, the great folk club in Berkeley, California. I had just returned from a month-long writing retreat. During the third concert in a series of concerts, I sang it solo in a different key. Later I started thinking, this is supposed to be a gospel quartet.”

Eleven years later, the song sits as the centerpiece of an album that includes songs such as the gently shimmering lullaby-like “Rock the Pain Away,” the scampering bluegrass ramble “Long Gone,” the jaunty Celtic-inflected “Quaking Aspen,” and the somber and haunting “Enough.”

Thematically, the album circles around loss and pain but it never descends into hopelessness or despair, for there is a joy winding through these darker themes, such as in the capering, exuberant “Just a Little Ways Down the Road.” As Lewis observes, “the songs fit together thematically pretty well. I had to make some difficult decisions—I had about 18 songs, and there are 12 on the album.” In addition, this is the first album she has created without her musical and life partner Tom Rozum, who has developed Parkinson’s disease in recent years. He’s been unable to play mandolin or guitar, but he contributes to this album in special ways. Lewis says: “I knew I wanted this to come out as an LP so I could display his beautiful artwork on the cover.” Rozum also sings on three of the songs on the album: “Enough,” “Quaking Aspen,” and “Trees.”

The album’s title track premieres on Arbor Day*. The gorgeous a cappella take on “Trees” is a meditation on the beauty, resilience, and energy of trees. The voices of Lewis, Hasee Ciaccio, George Guthrie, and Rozum swirl ethereally in a gospel quartet that evokes the sounds of trees as they “stand waiting at the edges of your fields” to reclaim the land that is theirs.

As Lewis observes of the song: “’Trees’” considers mortality, commerce and capitalism, the cycles of the seasons and agriculture, and how all gains are built on losses. Built off of bluegrass and old-time’s gospel traditions, it finds ample hope in its message of ebb and flow, growth and harvest, life and death. I think there’s one very strong thread in this album, a thread of loss. I’m not a ‘Pollyanna,’ I just feel like I can’t be. But even in loss, there’s so much joy, too. And there’s so much beauty and I want to have room for all of that.”

“Trees” reminds us just how deeply planted we are in the natural world, and it encourages us to celebrate the moments of joy and to be aware of the enduring beauty that surrounds us in nature and that will be here long after we’re gone.


*Inspired by Earth Day and Arbor Day, enjoy this 5+ hour playlist of songs for, or inspired by, Mother Earth and her nonhuman inhabitants – birds, trees, wildflowers, and more – from favorite artists like Kate Wolf, John Gorka, Laurie Lewis, Odetta, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, David Francey, Tom Waits, The Mammals, Pete Seeger, Jeffrey Foucault, Spell Songs, Richard Shindell, and MANY others!


More about Trees, out on May 31, HERE




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