As Covid-19 has coaxed us in to reconnecting with nature, with finding wild open spaces, and exploring the beauty of our own surroundings, along comes Jenny Sturgeon with a cracking album in 'The Living Mountain'.
Exquisite, spellbinding, life-affirming and a totally immersive experience – piece by piece the image-rich songs weave together to form a living, breathing tapestry of the Cairngorms – a real tonic for our times.
Thus concludes the accompanying press material for Jenny Sturgeon’s latest record ‘The Living Mountain’, and I couldn’t have described it better myself. It’s precisely this.
Jenny Sturgeon is a fascinating artist. The Shetland based Scottish singer-songwriter is herself immersed in her environment, ecology, and the living elements. These are the touchstones for her art and music. ‘The Living Mountain’ is her second full solo album, exploring how humans can connect and be inspired by the natural world.
In a fast-paced, digital-driven world, we can too easily disconnect from our humanity and connection to the natural world. Sturgeon brings us back to our senses, literally. She has a PhD in seabird ecology, is the organiser of the Shetland Songwriting Festival, and runs a cottage industry called Ink & Wool – such is her pedigree.
‘The Living Mountain’ was three years in the making. Inspired by a long-forgotten trailblazing woman called Nan Shepherd, who in the midst of the last century wrote a book of the same name – about her explorations in the Scottish Cairngorms. Sturgeon’s compositions and lyrics link with Shepherd’s words and intellect, her rather zen philosophy, of ‘simply being’ in the mountains and interacting with the wild.
Shepherd’s 1940’s memoir lay unpublished for decades, but when finally released was described by the Guardian as “the finest book ever written on nature and landscape.”
Recorded and produced by Andy Bell at Clashnettie Arts Centre in the Cairngorms National Park, Sturgeon’s twelve songs mirror the chapter titles of Shepherd’s book, with ten of her own original songs and two arrangements of Shepherd’s poems.
Sturgeon’s Ph.D. in birdsong and ecology echoes here – with recordings of the landscape captured in time. She has a sublime voice and is a talented multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, harmonium, dulcimer, thumb piano, whistle, and a unique ‘Nan Taran’ guitar, handmade and crafted from reclaimed Scottish wood.
The shifting moods of the mountains are captured in sound; its flora, fauna, and every inch of the landscape.
With titles such as ‘The Plateau’, ‘The Recesses’, ‘Water’, ‘Frost and Snow’, ‘Air and Light’, ‘The Plants’, ‘Man’, ‘Sleep’, ‘The Senses’ and ‘Being’, this beautiful album is in itself a meditation on the stark beauty of nature, and the truther therein.
Jenny Sturgeon’s passion for this project shines through. It’s a feast for the senses and as elevating as the mountains. She has conjured a timeless album that makes you want to get the hiking boots on and take to the hills. In fact, as I write, that’s exactly what I intend to do. I’m off to the Belfast Hills now for the wild open spaces and a view of the city below.