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joan kelsey

13 - Joan Kelsey Press Photo 3 - credit Morgan Dwyer.jpg

photo by Morgan Dwyer

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When I've finished an album I often feel like the old Spanish churchgoer who tried to restore a beloved fresco but wound up with the infamous Monkey Christ.

In a time of tremendous difficulty I tried to make something life-affirming: grieving songs which look toward joy and "answer that of God in everyone," as George Fox said. Plants dig into the underworld and bring back messages just like the mind digs into the body and brings back memories.

As for that time and the music that came from it, Kamryn Wolf was there throughout.


They've written about it below:



Grief can feel so impossible. After Britta killed herself, my grief felt like trying to juggle cement bricks while jumping backwards through a halo of fire. Only faith (itself an occasional impossibility) and a sturdy dose of magic could ever promise to get me through to the other side... and then the other side, and then the other side, because grief is always arriving. It rises with the morning sun and drinks moonshine with the stars. Though grief made a monument of my body, it barely made a noise in our home. It creeped around the chords fingerpicked on Joan’s guitar from behind closed doors and into the stillness of the living room. This infuriated me – the fact that grief was everywhere and yet absolutely unshareable. It was as ordinary as making a cup of tulsi tea and as extraordinary as blood on the bathroom tile.



I read somewhere that a prayer is words for when words feel like too much, movement for when life gets stuck in the body. These songs, I think, are Joan’s prayers. Standing Out On The Grass invites you into their gentle world of mourning and surviving, a world remarkable for its lush melancholy and uncanny compassion. It may be hard to look away from the past, but Joan’s songs always manage to peel open unlikely vistas of emotion and glistening light. Even on the songs when they seem resigned to a familiar fate, their insistence upon life tumbles forward, their guitar galloping through the yards at sunrise. They take the family rose and turn it on their tongue, transforming unspeakable pain into something shareable, bearable, and so goddamn beautiful. Because there is a sense that the grief, the panic, the anger… they are all just currents in the pulsing stream of something larger – call it acceptance, or community, or love.



Britta, may these songs greet you in heavenly flight and inspire flutterings of joy in your chest. May you feel us reaching for you across the horizon. On our tongues we taste your name like wildflower honey, golden for eternity. I promise you are safe in our love. I promise you will never be lost for you are here, in our breath and rhythm and memory deeper than bone.


releases on DLR:

DLR 038 - Standing Out on the Grass

DLR 011 - House of Mercy

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