The Early Mays offer an inward-looking, heartfelt approach to Appalachia. Restoratively vintage, their no-frills roots music brings a warmth that is often missed in raucous contemporary releases. Beginning as the brainchild of Emily Pinkerton and Ellen Gozion, the duo becomes a trio with cellist Nicole Myers along with the release of their next EP, Prettiest Blue, on 1 July. Her adroit playing brings a set of deep tones to Emily’s banjo and Ellen’s harmonium that feels right at home, bringing a freshly unlocked layer of richness to their sound.
Their vocal and instrumental chops are given ample space to impress on the reflective tune, ‘On a Dying Day’. Gorgeous harmonies take the forefront, painting a lyrical picture of the shores that the single is inspired by. It’s due out on 17 June.
Pinkerton tells For Folk’s Sake…
This song is set on the shores of Lake Michigan where I grew up. I have recurring dreams about the Indiana Dunes. I find myself in a small house at dusk, sorting through boxes of old photos, and then I climb down a steep mountain of sand to the water’s edge. I don’t just do this in my dreams. I go to the dunes whenever I can. It’s a place where I can make sense of who I am in the world, especially when things get hard.
I tried to make the banjo sound like rolling waves. In a similar way, the words of “On a Dying Day” “roll” back and forth, as the last lines of one stanza grow into the first line of the next. I get this structure from Chilean folk poetry that I studied when living in Santiago (canto a lo poeta, tonada). The lyrics also carry echoes of an Argentine song, “Alfonsina y el mar” by Felix Luna and Ariel Ramírez. In this song, a poet walks into the water and ends her life “dressed in sea” (“vestida de mar”). My song, “On a Dying Day,” is about finding redemption at the shore. I “wear these waves like a wedding gown,” and am held and comforted: “when the light is fading, I will sail unharmed.” The day is dying, and a new one will begin.There’s such a depth to this arrangement with the sustained chords of the harmonium (portable pump organ) and the wandering cello.