Kele Goodwin has spent his life in three places: in Juneau, Alaska; on the Navajo Nation; and in the misty Pacific Northwest. He makes music that sings from bone marrow, from a life and landscape alternately charted and lost, crushed and rebuilt. It is music made familiar by the experience of pain and its lessons. It is music to live by.
Goodwin’s debut album Hymns was produced by Sean Ogilvie of Musée Méchanique and features guest performances from Laura Gibson, Alela Diane, Ogilvie himself, Douglas Jenkins of The Portland Cello Project, and many others.
If the songs from Hymns sound familiar, it is because timelessness is a virtue shared by the things we remember most profoundly. Goodwin’s lyrics and vocals are like faiths and currents, alternately ebbing and flowing, fluid yet distinguished by an unmistakable rhythm. His silvery voice is hypnotic and soulful and gracefully melds his immaculate fingerpicking with poetic, lilting lyrics. These are profound lullabies, gentle aubades to the next day. Goodwin’s dreamy elements compliment Ogilvie’s well designed woodwind, string, and mandolin arrangements to form a forceful, sophisticated, and surprisingly meticulous collaboration. It is a record which is incredibly eloquent and honest and will leave its listeners sated yet wanting.
Hymns is a testimony to the triumph of the spirit within art as Goodwin’s making of the album was beset by both trial and heartache.
Goodwin’s candor extends from his music into real life as he rolls up his shirt sleeve and shows you the scar left from an injury that nearly cost him his arm and his life. Incurred from a night of horseplay, Goodwin’s arm shattered the plate glass of a garage door window, nearly slicing his right arm in two. It is the kind of injury that summons life altering perspective as one considers the possibilities of what might have been and yet what was; Goodwin’s uninsured injury did not cost him his life nor his music. His second chance is a gratuity to the arts.
This same period of tragedy brought with it life as Goodwin welcomed his daughter into the world. The birth of his daughter was one of the most transformative periods for this young musician. In becoming a parent, Goodwin’s music gained weight in a sense; as the realization of her life and this album occurred in tandem, the lyrics seem less symbol, more plainspoken observation, less atmosphere and more armature. His music and her life are the scaffolding of his existence, and Hymns is the echo.
Hymns is a mirror to this young musician’s perserverance and belief in his art. It is a record infused with both candor and metaphor, a lost poetry that has resurfaced in this young artist’s harrowing and tenacious grip on his life and his music. His lyrics are both observation and prayer, delicate lines built on an architecture of gratitude and disbelief of the world around him.