Susan Ro and associates come to us with a beautiful album containing a pretty diverse bunch of songs that are held together by the fabric of warm melody and a quiet joy. Collected together from her past decade of song and performance, it is a debut album that pretty much captures nature into a shiny little disc. Looking at the earthy album art it might immediately spring to mind that this will be nature folk with a meandering solitary guitar, but that is as true as the mirage of fresh spring water you might see in the middle of the Sahara. Do not believe your eyes.
While working from a position of spreading love and appreciating nature across the world, Ro makes good to overturn this preconception and fills a whole side of the album book with the musicians and instruments within including (but not limited to): Matt Bailey (Hand Pan), Yaniv Taichman (Oud) and the Shakti Sings Choir. Across the album this range of talent can be heard, their influences and colours brushing across the album like coloured winds over a shifting sand. There are beaches of character here, you have to admire the breadth of world influences.
There is a lot to explore here musically as the disc soul spreads it roots far and wide. The opener "Silver City" is Ro opening with a song about her childhood in New Zealand. It is a serene number, the guitar touches lightly, and very much demonstrates the fleeting nature of images and warmth that come when reminiscing about the past. As an opener it demonstrates the joys of nature and the imprints they leave on the mind as it talks of "towers turned to oak wood" and "trembling tall trees." From the go it establishes the album as a love of the Earth, the mind, it's people and the touch of peace from living alongside and experiencing it all.
Sovereignty is more a number for personal spiritual strength than a call for nationhood (no complaints here). In a way Ro is like a cutlery maker bending iron with tools. Folk music spirituality is the tool and the metal in question is a melodic 90s r'n'b vibe. It works well with it's gentle winding words,hit of percussive wood and sweet singing voice. Not only this, it gives you an idea of the level of variety there is to enjoy on "Song of a Thousand Leaves."
You find that there are other songs to come that bring even more shades of music. There is the wonderfully Reggae/Latin swings of "Nature's Song" that is a kaleidoscope of cool (and one of our favourites), the more traditional and beautifully solemn song "Ripples of Time", and "Seekers", that feels almost like the delightful chase of a thought that you know will grow into a great idea (especially through the great vocal exchange with Eran Katz on this number).
Bookending the album is "Creatures of the Deep". Professed as being a "bridge" to a new chapter it is an excellent ode to whales and the sea,a leaping energetic track that bursts through any veil of malaise one might have. It is a song of reverence, offering and friendship and very much points to Ro's continuing and evolving eco-spiritual sound. From this and all the tracks on the album you can see the sincerity of connection between Ro's music, life and the Earth. She is certainly a good role model, this is another of our favourites from this album that appeal to our green, leafy hearts.
If you are feeling a slight dulling of your connection to nature, "Song of a Thousand Leaves" is the all-natural boost to your senses. Light and fresh it is an album of the sun and of the cooling evening that reminds you of what the sound of quiet peace can be like.
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