I’ve fallen in love with the music of Moria Smiley, an American singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist whose influences range from classical choral compositions to bluegrass, gospel, and the folk traditions of eastern Europe and the British Isles. She’s been doing excellent work for some years, but I’ve fallen hard for her extraordinary new album, Unzip the Horizon.
Since yesterday was Father’s Day, let’s begin with “Dressed in Yellow” (above), a song about a complex father/daughter relationship from Unzip the Horizon. Smiley is accompanied on vocals by the American roots duo Anna & Elizabeth.
“Wiseman” (below) is performed with the brilliant young English singer and folk song collector Sam Lee, influenced by the ballad-singing style Sam learned among the Travelling community of Britain. The backing musicians are: Dena El Saffar on violin/josa/viola, Joseph Phillips on bass, and Seamus Egan on percusssion.
These next two songs are among the many she’s recorded in collaboration with other musicians.
Above: “John O’Dreams,” written by Bill Caddick and performed by The Seamus Egan Project: Seamus Egan and Kyle Sanna on guitars, Jeff Hiatt on bass, Jon De Lucia on clarinet, and Smiley on banjo and vocals (2018).
Below: “Standing on the Shore,” from the Irish/American band Solas, with Smiley stepping in on vocals. This recording appeared on the band’s twelfth album, All These Years (2016).
And to end with, two more songs from Smiley’s wide-ranging new album, Unzip the Horizon.
Above: “Refugee,”with backing vocals by Rising Appalachia and Krista Detor, accompanied by Vanessa Lucas-Smith on cello, Rekan on darkbuka, Joseph Phillips on bass, and Sola Akingbola on percussion. Explaining her inspiration for the song, Smiley writes: “My world was blown open in summer 2016 while volunteering at Calais Jungle refugee camp in France. I woke to culture and language completely beyond my understanding, and also the simple power of humans making beauty together — from nothing.”
Below: “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy,” the classic Leadbelly song, arranged for voices and body percussion. The other performers are Ayo Awosika, Pilar Diaz, Sally Dworsky, Bella LeNestour, Courtney Politano, Moira Smiley, Ann Louise Thaiss, Maggie Wheeler, and Christine Wilson.