Carol Kleyn

Return of the Silkie

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Issued in 1983, songwriter and harpist Carol Kleyns third recording, Return of the Silkie, takes her full-circle and then some. On 1976's Love Has Made Me Stronger, she accompanied herself on piano and harp. On 1980's Takin' the Time, she and her harp were accompanied by a full rock band. Here, it is only her harp, her voice, the sounds of the ocean, and wounded seals and sea lions, recovering in a big red barn on Laguna Canyon Road (now home to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center) before their return to the wild. Though she wrote only the title track with these creatures and their mythical origins in mind, the rest are loosely tethered by Kleyn's own worldview, which is even now uncompromised in its reverence for the natural world (she currently lives on an island in the Puget Sound amid eagles and sea animals and continues her own humble efforts to provide awareness of the consequences of global warming), the blessings of selfless love, and the quest for inner freedom. This is music that transcends time. Return of the Silkie stands out among Kleyn's records; it is informed by both folk and mythic traditions. Hers is a poetry of innocence informed by the experience of living in the world and moving through it. These songs bridge spirit, flesh, heaven, and earth unpretentiously. The title track delves with wordless vocals and natural sounds into the Scottish tradition of the silkie -- half human, half seal (mermaids). Even without words the legend is conveyed through its minor-key melody and dynamic shifts. Other tracks -- "Sailor in the Sun," "Hello Mr. Drifter, "Iaqua," and "River's Calling" -- directly portray the desire for travel and transcendence; a personal quest for anonymity in the beating heart of the world. The instrumental "Land Voyage" is the sound of that journey in process. "Storm Over Paradise" is a warning; it reflects impending environmental change and the consequences of human folly in trying to dominate the land. This is underscored by the instrumental closer "And Back Again," where the sounds of the ocean and sea animals return; it offers a renewed glimpse of their majesty, recalls the myth of the silkie, and acts as a healing balm. For the listener, Return of the Silkie is both a place of solace from the crawling chaos in everyday life, and also, in the simple grain of its presentation, it reminds us just how fragile the balance of life in the natural world is. Throughout, it carries weight of that message in its sparsely orchestrated, unpretentious, yet abundant beauty.

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