Lara Taubman Acoustic Trio

Shows at the Purple Fiddle

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The idea for this album came on a 105 degree day in July in Manhattan in 2021. The pressure of the heat was down on me and the gospel song “If I Can Help Somebody” was playing in my ears, the version sung by Mahalia Jackson. I floated down the hazy sidewalk on University Place, her voice loud and raw in my headphones. Her truthful sound, the words, the tinkling reverb-y piano, made me feel as if I was hallucinating a flower unfolding before my eyes. Hours after that intense moment, the meaning of mercy was brought to me for the first time in my life, in a strange and mystical experience in Washington Square Park. I fortuitously met producer and drummer, Steven Williams, two months after that hot day in Manhattan on a gig. Very quickly after meeting him, I realized I had met the person who could help me make “Ol’ Kentucky Light.”

By the time Steve and I met, I had already begun writing some of the songs. The genre of gospel I responded to, Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, The Staples Singers and others like them, was what inspired many of the songs for this album. The stark but rich recordings of their voices is the feeling that I wanted to create within as I wrote.

2021 was the year I began to cover some classic gospel songs. Singing those deep, healing sounds sparked something profound in my body and mind. I believe part of the reason I began writing music at all was so I could climb inside of a song, to embody it. The inspiration of classic gospel brought me that experience when I wrote these songs. “Darkness Before the Dawn” was the first song that came, then “Come to Me.” I admit, I was a little bewildered, I did not recognize these songs as something that I expected from my music writing self but I loved them immediately. They felt, and continue to feel, incredible to play and sing, like a higher power sent me spiritual nourishment through music. I experienced the gospel, not exclusively as a religious thing but as a human and universal experience.

I have come to understand the songs on “Ol’ Kentucky Light”, as my personal immersion into surrender, mercy and love. Being from the South and my roots in Appalachian music are not far from classic gospel music. The two kinds of music have always intermingled historically. In a way, these new songs have brought me closer to my southern background but in a deeper, more spiritual way. I now understand my journey of making music as one of surrender, more and more I surrender. To make this album, I had to commit to the decision to let the music do my work, stop trying so hard to control everything. Surrender to the music and let it come to me and shape me, the music and my experience of it both within me and outside of me in the world. I truly hope that is what I did on this project and that I can share my experience with listeners.

“Ol’ Kentucky Light” could not have had a better birthplace than my current home of New York City. NYC is my creative home, where I have always gone to make things. I am grateful that I got to make this music in collaboration on this album with Steven Williams, Paul T. Frazier, Walter Parks and Etienne Lytle at Atomic Sound Recording Studios in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It was truly one of the most integrated and enlightened experiences of my life. I am ever grateful to them and grateful to the universe that I found them.