By: Staff –
To celebrate the release of Raine Hamilton’s new album, Brave Land, the chamber-folk artist curated an exclusive Spotify playlist that features songs that inspired the album. Check it out below.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Hamilton grew up writing songs as part of a musical family. Their parents met in a rock band in the 1970s, so you could say it’s in their blood. Hamilton’s music stretches the boundaries of contemporary folk, combining the traditions of singer-songwriter, lyric-centered songs, and fiddling, with classically influenced string parts that borrow from a renaissance counterpoint.
Hamilton has toured as a professional singer-songwriter and chamber folk artist since 2014, releasing two previous albums, Past Your Past, in 2015, and Night Sky in 2018. Hamilton is the recipient of the 2018 Canadian Folk Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year, and has toured Canada extensively, driving, flying, and floating their way coast to coast. Hamilton has performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, and festivals including Vancouver Folk Festival, Vancouver Island Music Fest, Atlin Festival, Home County, Filberg Fest, Lilac Fest, Harvest Moon, and Trout Forest, among others.
A believer that music is for everyone, and that we all have something to share, Hamilton offers workshops in songwriting and fiddle-tune writing, and offers concerts with American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, to help make live music and the community that comes with it more accessible to the Deaf community.
“I combine the styles of classical string quartets (sometimes called chamber music) with singer songwriter songs in a style I call chamber-folk,” said Hamilton. “I draw inspiration from other singer-songwriters, string quartets, and some really out-there classical composers. This playlist reflects that gamut of inspiration, and I was delighted to put it together.”
Sarah Harmer – “Greeting Card Isle”
“Sarah Harmer would you please sign my feminist notebook?”, I asked, trembling. She signed it “Hi Raine, Don’t forget to write!” What an ace. Sarah Harmer was my introduction to pop folk. I studied her music deeply. In 2004, I was just getting into songwriting, and I transcribed a ton of her tunes, took them apart, and looked at them really up close. Oh I think she is great! This song is sad and weird and I love it. What a great role model.
P.S. I did totally forget to write.
Erin Propp – “Am I Alright”
I heard this song when it came out in 2012, and it stood me still. I thought “This is exquisite.” Since then, I have kept it as a reference, remembering that this kind of emotional reach is possible, like water into the deep, deep cracks of the earth.
Rae Spoon – “This Used to be the Bottom of an Ocean”
My album Brave Land is a concept album about mountains, and the courage, wisdom, and connection they represent. So, I turned to some concept albums I admire, for inspiration. Fellow prairie person Rae Spoon’s landscape-inspired record My Prairie Home was a brilliant guide. I love how Rae explores different perspectives; Some songs are personal, others narrative, and this one, “This Used to be the Bottom of an Ocean,” is set in the prehistoric sea that once soaked the flatlands of the prairies.
Andy Shauf – “Quite Like You”
The Party is one of my favourite concept albums. It is tight, each song looking through the eyes of a party guest, and I think it is excellent. With Brave Land, my concept was looser; The songs each connect with the mountains, but not so much with each other. Additionally, I live for the drum sound on The Party. You’ll hear its dry, clean influence in the kit sound on “A Lover’s Word”.
Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet – “Captain”
I saw Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet at the Winnipeg Folk Festival years ago, and it was a game changer. The quartet is like a traditional string quartet, but it swaps in 2 banjos for violin/viola. Their performance was the first time I saw a classical-ish quartet and singer-songwriter combined. I didn’t know this kind of band existed. I didn’t know my chamber music and singer-songwriter selves could team up.
Fanny Mendelssohn – “String Quartet in Eb Major, III Romanze”
String quartets are important to me. This one is from the most effusively emotive period in classical music: The Romantic Era. I listen to a lot of quartets and chamber music, and I have played in a number of small groups since I was a kid, and throughout university. I am drawn to the teamwork of these small ensembles. Each instrument can be heard individually, and each has their moment of leadership. In small groups like these, the sounds of the instruments can also blend into one super instrument, creating lush textures of chords, like strokes of rich red paint.
Arvo Part – “Summa”
I think contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Part is a creative genius. I love his approach to sound, which I find transporting and captivating. His is not background music, it is full attention music. I am drawn to his intentionality; He treats his work with such respect and he imagines sounds beyond the familiar. His is a creative space on the edge, and wow do I also want to hang out there.
Palestrina – “Sacred Madrigals Book 2”
Classical music history is one of my jams. The European music of earlier times uses different sound rules than we use today, and the variety and space that creates appeals to me. I like a wide palate of sonic options. The opening of this Madrigal is really cool. It uses imitative polyphony, which means that phrases of melody are repeated, starting on different notes. Like a musical puzzle, the phrases connect to create cool harmonies. I used this technique in my song “Dominae Sanctae”. You can hear it best at the beginning, where my voice starts the melody, and then the cello comes in a few bars later, with the same melody but a 5th lower. I get so excited about stuff like this!
Hildegard von Bingen – “O Felix Anima”
Something happens to me when I hear Gregorian chant. I like this something so much that I played in the medieval music ensemble my entire undergrad, and then did a Master’s degree in medieval musicology after that. There is so much to love in this piece of music. As with all Gregorian chant, the rhythm is directly connected with the lyrics. This means the lyrics are boss, and I like that, because ultimately it means that the meaning is boss. For me, Gregorian chant opened up the world of modes, which is to say scales beyond the major and minor ones I grew up knowing. Chant just cracks me open. Also, the composer of this chant, 12th century mystic nun Hildegard is just one of the coolest people I could name.
My song “Dominae Sanctae” has a section of Gregorian-style chant in it. Singing this section takes me away, like some sort of cosmic, upward water slide. I find it spiritually nourishing to sing Gregorian chant, and to sing this song of mine, dedicated to the holy women of my family lineage.
Harry Partch – “Daphne of the Dunes”
Whenever I consider that there might be nothing new under the sun, I remember Harry Partch. Was he from another planet? Maybe yes. Marching to the beat of his own drum in the extreme, he chose extreme ways of life, extreme rejection of classical music conventions, and extreme imagining of new sounds and scales. In most music we’re used to hearing in North America and Europe, the octave is divided into 12 semitones. Harry Partch was all “Hmmm, how about 43 unequal tones instead?” The result is mind melting, and I love it. This track expands my sonic world. The twangy plucked strings at 4:48 are my favourite.