Redbuds Unchained When the Redbuds Bloom Sarah Elizabeth Burkey
I was reading Macbeth and Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" the other day at school and it seemed all too obvious: Burroughs was right. The Ugly Spirit is upon us: war, empire, Cheney vs. quail, Iraq, New Orleans gone, Ground Zero still a hole. The broken tower and burning roof. And Hunter Thompson dead.
Nature itself riots. In the Scottish play, two horses eat each other. In Hawthorne, a young man leaves his wife Faith and enters the dark woods to meet the dark one who tells him: "Evil is the nature of mankind." Feels true, feels like reading today'sTimes.
Burroughs was right: we are paying a cosmic debt. There seems no way out. But there is a way out. I heard it. I heard it on Sarah Elizabeth's CD When The Redbuds Bloom. It is in her touching, beautiful, strong yet fragile voice. It is in her songs that sing to the lost places of America. When The Redbuds Bloom is a collection of songs that reminds us of the great promise of America. It reminds us of working people and lovers, the blues and Bill Monroe, train songs and drinking songs, Kentucky and the road, the American day and the American night. Sarah Elizabeth has given us an album that is a reply to the Ugly Spirit. It is the way out. Good old Walt loved his America but hated its power lust: "It is as if we were somehow being endow'd with a vast and more and more thoroughly-appointed body, and then left with little or no soul." The soul is still there and you can hear it in Sarah Elizabeth's songs, her visit to the House of the Rising Sun, her going home.
—Dr. John Rocco, New York City, author of The Nirvana Companion, The Beastie Boys Companion, The Doors Companion, The Grateful Dead Companion, and other Schirmer Books.
A Songbird's Tears When the Redbuds Bloom Sarah Elizabeth Burkey (Independent)
Think for a moment about folk music. If you're a music connoisseur, if you're the kind of person who can pick out a musician's inspiration in a single chord of a single song like a wine lover can, with the smack of her tongue against her palate, pick out the taste of wood from the cask where the wine aged, then you can doubtlessly find and appreciate the dark, sometimes tragic tones that run throughout folk songs. Now think for a moment about some of the best-known traditional folk songs: "Pretty Polly," "Man of Constant Sorrow," "Barbara Allen," and many others. All sad, all dark, all an integral part of folk music.
Keeping in that tradition is Sarah Elizabeth. With a voice that dips into whispers and soars into piercing clarity and songwriting skills that tap into the richness of traditional folk music, she brings us When the Redbuds Bloom, a recording loaded with traditional sounds cut through with mystery and subtlety. Consisting of nearly a dozen original and traditional folk ballads, Redbuds is a lush sampler of folk music's darker side, which, considering the genre's history, is rich and deep.
With help from a strong team of backing musicians including Peter Rhee, Tyrone Cotton, John Paul Wright, Karen Elise McKenzie, Dave Humphrey, Joe Manning, Redbuds takes on environmental issues of preservation versus suburban sprawl in the title cut, the joy of good eats after a hard day's work in "Burgoo," a shattered heart in "I Love You Crossed My Mind Today," a murder told first-person by the victim in "Fair Butchertown," which Sarah sings a capella in the tradition of an Irish dirge (complete with a bagpipe finale from Karen Elise McKenzie).
What Sarah does in Redbuds is proof that folk music isn't limited to the sunny bounce of "Blue Tail Fly" or "This Land is Your Land," or even to the protest songs from the 1960s. Its thread runs deep and far back into the history of music and that history is dark, often sad, sometimes deadly. Yet it doesn't seem to be Sarah's intention to bring us down. Like a willow tree, When the Redbuds Bloom is large, shady, drooping. But like the willow's foliage, it is filled with life.
—Tim Roberts, Louisville Music News
When the Redbuds Bloom Sarah Elizabeth Burkey (Independent) Folk
I've been lucky enough to see spring's redbuds in bloom over the tree-studded mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and I can say that there's something particularly inspiring about seeing drops of bright pink and purple dot a deep green landscape. There's also an underlying sadness to it, tethered to the region's history and poverty, which cannot be ignored, no matter the natural majesty. Kentucky's Sarah Elizabeth has somehow captured this colloquial dichotomy masterfully. Perhaps saturation explains it: She spent 19 days hiking across the state, during which she wrote a lot of this album.
Sarah's voice is deep and seductive, surprisingly weathered considering her youth. The title track is stunning and gorgeous, following the tradition of female folksters in device but never in spirit. Her heart is planted among the tobacco and corn, in the fields and on the hills that give our state raw splendor. "When I Hear That Train," a duet with Louisville folkie Joe Manning, spills over with that majestic, elusive power of constant motion. With literary sensibilities guiding the record's climactic structure, Sarah's a true Kentucky original.
—Stephen George, LEO
Heartfelt and Soothing Songs When the Redbuds Bloom Sarah Elizabeth Burkey
Sarah Elizabeth hiked 325 miles from Louisville to western Kentucky in May 2005. Along the way she was inspired to write several of the tunes on this 11-song CD.
This album has a folksy feel, with her soft voice accompanied by guitar, banjo, dulcimer, mandolin and violin on most of the tracks. She puts fresh spins on "House of the Rising Sun" and "500 Miles" while her own compositions evoke heartfelt emotions of sadness and loss.
Sarah Elizabeth's vocals are like a soft breeze on a quiet summer night, restful and soothing.