Hammock go massive as they meditate on grand themes of death and loss, their music ever larger, more expansive. Every song a mountaintop vista with a clear view to the horizon, unencumbered by clouds, in all directions. Departure Songs demands that it be played loudly so that the details in each track can breathe, whether it is the androgynous, falsetto vocals of Marc Byrd or the angelic voice of Christine Glass Byrd or just a little bit of guitar in the background, this record is nuanced in a most compelling fashion. The arrangements beg to be picked apart - soaring guitars, propulsive bass, and hypnotic strings. The vocals work wonderfully as an instrument, but when the words finally become understandable, they cause shivers.
War, social injustice, personal plaints, and calls for action have long fueled musical creation and performance. In Classic Protest Songs, Mark Gustafson and Jeff Place tap the historic Smithsonian audio collections to compile 22 songs favored by leaders of antiwar, civil rights, industrial labor, farm worker, and other struggles to air their grievances. Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Janis Ian, Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger, Barbara Dane, Guy Carawan, Phil Ochs, and other marquee artists let their voices ring out with calls for peace and justice.
If the court of Elizabeth I could be compared to a bee-hive, John Dowland was one of its workers, tirelessly bringing in news from the Continent which he constantly visited, and as tirelessly producing the spiritual sustenance vital for the court's existence. It is this honey that Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rooley have gathered in an imaginative recital that focuses on Dowland's relationship to his various patrons – among them Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.
Arthur Sullivan always wanted to be known more as a serious composer than one of comic opera, and his Symphony in E minor ("Irish") and his grand opera Ivanhoe, immensely popular in its own time, have been revived in recent decades. The same cannot be said of his songs, which are all but unknown except for The Lost Chord. That chestnut is not even included on this expansive two-disc survey, a highly worthwhile look into Sullivan the song composer.