Tag Archives: Music Travel

Best Music for Resolutions


DESTINATIONS: the American West, Scotland, Appalachian Mountains, Indiana


  • Tony Duncan,  Native Son [Canyon Records] (Available on January 21, 2014)
  • Catriona McKay, Tony McManus, and a whole bunch of other musicians, Celtic Airs & Reflective Melodies [Greentrax Recordings]
  • Al Petteway and Amy White Winter Tidings (Maggies Music]
  • Carrie Newcomer Kindred Spirits [Rounder Records]

By Kerry Dexter

Do you make resolutions at the new year? Perhaps you make resolutions on New Year’s Day, or New year’s Eve. I’ve a friend who makes resolutions at the winter solstice on 21 December, and another who chooses the turning of the Celtic year around the end of October. I tend to use Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, as a time when I think about resolutions. Maybe you do not make resolutions at all.

Chance are, though, that you do look forward toward where you’re going and look back at where you’ve been. Perhaps you think about it as setting goals, making resolutions, creating intentions, or planning for what’s ahead. The time when the calendar turns from one year to the next is often a reminder of the need for such reflection and an inspiration for doing it. Music can be a good companion.

American West

Tony Duncan knows the landscapes of the American west in his bones. He is of Apache and Mandan –Hidatsa –Arikara heritage. His instrument is the Native American wooden flute. On his album Native Son, Duncan offers songs of family, songs of landscape, original and traditional songs which invite and share reflection.

“Flowing through the mighty rivers and streams a song is heard if you listen closely,” Duncan says, “ the sound of the sun rising in the east and setting to the west, the call of the cactus wren in the desert and the call of the elk in the high country. If you listen closely you can hear life in all its wonder.” He makes music inspired by these ideas in pieces called Evening Meadows, Sacred Mountain, Stories Upon Stone, Eagle Has Blessed Us, and others. He ends this collection with his take on the hymn Amazing Grace. [Here is a sample of Duncan playing with his group Esttun-Bah at the 2009 Santa Fe Indian Market.]


Across the water in Scotland, you might at first think of the skirl of bagpipes leading marches and dancers’ feet flying to lively jigs and reels. There is an equally  long tradition of music for the quiet side of life in Scotland as well. The people of Greentrax Recordings decided to put together an album of just such music, which they’ve called Celtic Airs & Reflective Melodies

They’ve gathered music which traverses the landscapes of Scotland, played on fiddle, harp, guitar, pipes, and other instruments by many of Scotland’s musicians. Harp player Catriona McKay took inspiration from a trip on a sailing vessel for her tune called The Swan, while piper Jimmy Young composed Denny’s Air on first meeting his wife Denny. Guitarist Tony McManus turned to an air Robert Burns used to make his song Ye Banks and Ye Braes.


As you read the title of Winter Tidings: An Appalachian Christmas you might be thinking but wait: it’s not Christmas. The gifts of the Christmas season — hope, love, faith, courage, change, challenge, forgiveness, trust, to name several — are ones to carry forward through the year. These elements of the story persist and are good things to consider as you make plans, set goals, and make resolutions.

Al Petteway and Amy White, who live in the Appalachian mountains, use guitar, bouzouki, dulcimer, keyboards, and other instruments to create a collection of traditional and instrumental music which evokes reflection and the quiet side of the winter season. If the Christmas story is not part of your faith, still, this is album which reaches across boundaries of faith to the essentials which connect us — and which are good things to have along when making resolutions and setting goals.

Midwestern U.S.

Carrie Newcomer, who draws deep inspiration from her native ground in Indiana writes songs which take these things into account, songs which invite reflection and suggest good questions. On her album Kindred Spirits she’s included songs from across her career in music “but I decided not to do it chronologically,” she says. “I wanted to do it as I would a set list for a concert, with ideas and melodies flowing into each other.”

Some are songs she’s recorded before, including the story of friendship in The Gathering of Spirits and the gifts of ordinary things in Holy as a Day is Spent and others are new, including The Long Christmas Dinner and a new version of an old favorite about how to walk in the world through trust called Bare to the Bone. She begins the collection with a new song called The Speed of Soul. In that song Newcomer considers an idea she heard in a Native American story, that at times we travel faster than ours souls can go, that we need to take time to slow down and catch up with our own selves.

As you are considering making resolutions and setting goals, making plans and setting intentions, that’s a good idea to have in mind.

Note: It is the policy of A Traveler’s Library to let you know about affiliate links.  There are links in this article to Amazon, where you can listen to bits of the album, and do your shopping if you wish. It does not cost you any more, and you will be benefiting Music Road and A Traveler’s Library.

Musical Trip to Scotland


Destination: Scotland


Ceolbeg Collected by Ceolbeg [Greentrax],
Race the Loser by Lau [Reveal Records],
The Flooers o’ the Forest by various artists [Greentrax],
Flourish by Katie McNally [own label]

Article by Kerry Dexter

Scotland’s varied landscapes, long history, and present day life inspire music that turns out to be as varied as those landscapes and as vibrant as that day-to-day life. Here are recent albums for you to consider as you imagine, plan, or remember your trip to Scotland.
trip to Scotland album

Ceolbeg Collected

The first two tracks of Ceolbeg Collected make a fine opener for any trip to Scotland. The music begins with a march which moves into a highstepping strathspey called the Laddie with the Plaidie. [Note from VMB: The term Strathspey was new to me, and in case you also need a primer on strathspey, take a look at this demonstration by two experts. Kerry explained to me that the strathspey falls rhythmically between the march that precedes it on the album, and the reel that follows. ] The Cup of Tea Reel brings the set to a close, making all told a fine introduction of the fast-paced side of the music of Scotland. Farewell Tae the Haven,  a song of lament for the decline of fishing and the leaving of a fishing town, follows.

Ceolbeg began as a band in the port of Dundee in the late 1970s and through more than three decades (they played their last gig ten years ago) saw many of Scotland’s finest musicians join its lineup, which featured traditional instruments, traditional songs, and innovative takes on tradition as well as original music. The sixteen cuts on Ceolbeg Collected showcase songs and tunes of history, love, politics, landscape, and change, many of the band’s best gathered from across the years.
Trip to Scotland Album

Race the Loser

The opening tracks of Race the Loser may have you thinking in a different direction. Kris Drever, Martin Green, and Aidan O’Rourke, the men who make up this trio, have solo careers involving traditional music, but when they get together, they’re known for creating work that takes folk and traditional music up to its boundaries and beyond, and indeed they do so here. Scotland’s traditions remain at the heart of their music though, as they weave O’Rourke’s fiddle, Green’s accordion, and Drever’s guitar and voice through complex and intriguing realms of melody, at times bringing in electronics and at others relying on adventurous melody and counterpoint of their traditional instruments alone.


Trip to Scotland album

The Flooers of the Forest 

The Flooers of the Forest is an iconic song of Scotland, whether performed as a song with words or played as lament on instruments alone. The words were written about those lost at the Battle of Flodden, which took place five hundred years ago near the Scottish Borders area in northern Northumberland in England. The political and historical ramifications may be debated, but there’s no doubt many died in this battle between English and Scottish forces, and that Scotland came out the heavy loser. Not only was King James IV killed, but there was hardly a family in Scotland that went unscathed by the battle.

Legends have grown about the events at Flodden– who took part, what went before, and what came after– but until now the songs and stories had not been gathered together. The Flooers of the Forest is a two disc set, the first comprising fifteen tracks, opening with Dick Gaughan’s rough hewn voice singing the story of the title track and closing with Gary West’s haunting version of it on the pipes. In between there are songs of the battle and its people from Karine Polwart, Rob Bell, Davy Steele, Archie Fisher, and other luminaries of Scotland’s music. The second disc is readings of poetry and prose . All will take you through a trip to Scotland in a particular place and time in Scotland’s history.


Tri[p to Scotland music - Flourish

Katie McNally’s instrument is the fiddle. The Boston based musician has long been immersed in the music of Scotland. She’s studied in Glasgow and in the U. S., and come away with an individual touch and style that mark her as a gifted interpreter of the traditions of the music of Scotland as well as a talent who is taking that music and its intersections with the music of North America into new dimensions. You’ll hear all of this on her album Flourish.

Traditional and original tunes as well as tunes by Scottish composers meet and match, with McNally’s fiddle gracefully leading a dance of traditional instruments including guitar, cello, and harmony fiddle. Standout tracks include Waulking of the Fauld paired with Lillian’s, The Jarvis Waltz, and Da Unst Bridal March, though every track is a keeper, and well worth your returning to time and again.

Take a trip to Scotland through the music of these artists. You’ll discover things you never knew.

Note: A Traveler’s library reveals affiliate links.  The album cover images and album titles here are links to Amazon, where you can listen to partial music tracks and shop for albums and books. If you click on the link and make a purchase at Amazon, it will benefit Music Road, for which we thank you.

Music for Butte Montana: Shamrock City


Destination: Butte, Montana, and history

Music: Shamrock City by Solas

by Kerry Dexter

As the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth, Butte Montana was a place of contrasts: wealthy mine owners with Victorian mansions, miners digging the copper that fueled that wealth, saloon owners and saloon girls who catered to all, children who played in the grass at Columbia Gardens, men who did bare knuckle boxing to make a few extra bucks, all of them seeking a better life in this wide open town that became known as the richest hill on earth. Continue reading Music for Butte Montana: Shamrock City