Laurie Lewis,
Earth & Sky:
The Laurie Lewis Songbook

(Confluence, 2002)

This is a comprehensive collection of music and lyrics by Laurie Lewis -- based on her 1997 CD of the same title -- with brief explanations of the roots of the songs, and the ideas and journeys that led to their conception. It is illustrated by a variety of cute cartoons and lots of photographs of Laurie at various stages in her career, alongside her fellow musicians, family and friends.

The lyrics are delightful, and the tunes clearly notated with directions for playing. For those not too familiar with Laurie, a multi-talented lady who is a singer-songwriter, fiddler, guitarist, bass-player and band-leader, accessing her website will soon acquaint you with her plethora of CDs and her collaborations with other musicians. Well-known in bluegrass circles, her style encompasses bluegrass, country and folk ballad, and there is a veritable feast of music downloads available to entice you to purchase her CDs. Her clear voice and skilled playing are the only obvious losses in buying her songbook! But for those like me who enjoy the broad canvas of her compositions -- mainly on love, nature, family, friendships, with a sprinkling of comic lyrics as well -- this book is great for learning her songs and singing them and/or playing them. There are 40 songs in total, listed by title, and also by first lines and a comprehensive discography in the back, naming the 10 CDs other than Earth & Sky from which the songs are taken, so if there are gaps in your collection, you may well also be tempted to fill them in as you read the songs.

Earth & Sky: The Laurie Lewis Songbook represents good value for money and should be appreciated by imitators, musicians, singers and fans alike. I believe the title comes from "The Maple's Lament," a poignant and lovely song with a delicately mournful violin solo, inspired by the fashion of inscribing such instruments with Latin words which translate as "When I was alive I stood mute in the forest. Now, in death, I sing." Laurie's take on this was to say, "what about the tree?" "And when the day would come I'd raise my branches to the sun. I was a child of earth and sky and all the world was one. ... I am but the slave who sings when master draws the bow. ... But sometimes from mem'ry I can sing the birds in flight/And I can sing of sweet dark earth and endless starry nights/But oh, my favourite song of all, I truly do believe/Is the song the sunlight sang to me while dancing on my leaves."

Aside from sounding the violin strings, if your heartstrings remain unplucked by Laurie's sentiments, then at least recommend this book to those who will enjoy her unique viewpoint on life.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 8 March 2003

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