Making this playlist was a huge honor, and a little daunting. I dove into the process of making it wanting to really take my time and explore as much of the catalog as I could. I ended up falling into the world of all the field recordings. Sound is a powerful tool to transport and shift perspective. Do you want to know what it feels like to be a speck of dust under a large beetle walking above you? I do. The first half of this playlist is not ‘songs’— it’s beetles, carousel music, cicadas, birds, wolves, sounds of the wet season, trains and railroads, satellites, and butterflies. I’ve always loved the power of sound and field recording as diary+history, and diving into such a massive archive was really a pleasure. I felt the need to include some songs by favorites of mine too, so the second half of the playlist is Lucinda, Elizabeth Cotten, Dom Flemons, and others like Larry Penn and Christine Lavin who I just discovered from exploring the catalog. Many of these songs are about trains, trucks, journeying, labor, and music, all of which are my life. The Ella Jenkins snippet is a call and response meant for children about the joy and importance of making music— not alone, but together. These days, most of the music I make is joyfully with friends and family and not in solitude, and the process of making this playlist really made me think about my relatives. Many of them were themselves—and lived among—musicians, sound artists, labor organizers, and leftist theater performers, and any chance to place my own life and art into the context of my relatives and ancestors is a joy.
Ella Williams plays magnetic indie folk-rock as Squirrel Flower. Her latest record, Planet (i) is out now via Polyvinyl.
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