Rachel Denny reminds us of the rich music tradition in America before the Internet, before the plethora of modern recordings, and before television and radio. Rachel sings songs from the early settlers in what became the United States, particularly from rural communities in the Appalachian mountains, and from their antecedents in Scotland, Ireland and the greater English speaking world. This is the world of kerosene lamps and candles, not diodes.
Rachael comes from a family for whom music is a daily event, shared among family members, and enjoyed in larger gatherings with friends. Rachel’s mother plays cello and mountain dulcimer, and sisters play viola da gamba, violin and the Paraguayan harp. Rachel’s youngest brother plays trombone, accordion and electric bass. Rachael has been homeschooled from the beginning, as have her brothers and sisters. Rachel and her siblings live as a family unit with their parents. Rachel’s first formal music teacher was Robert Baker, the luthier from Santa Margarita, who built Rachel’s guitar. Later, Rachel studied with the famed English folk musician Martin Simpson when he lived in Santa Cruz.
Yarlung friends and musicians (Finnish violinist Petteri Iivonen and Ciaramella Ensemble directors Adam and Rotem Gilbert) came together for a 2014 New Year’s Eve concert at Hesperia Hall, on the Central Coast of California. Petteri played Bach and Ysaye, and the Gilberts finished with a Renaissance medley on Flemish bagpipes. After the concert, as our friends stayed to visit and toast the New Year, Rachel sang. Recordings from that evening sound like they were made in a noisy jazz club, so Rachel returned two weeks later to record some of her songs.