Traditional songs from around the world with a very modern meaning.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a lullaby as, “A soothing refrain, used to please or pacify infants”. Applied to Abigail Lapell’s similarly titled album this could include many adults too. These eight songs from around the world are arranged and performed by this Canadian “indie-folk” singer-songwriter, inspired by Covid induced insomnia and new additions to her extended family. Whether in French, English, Yiddish, Welsh, Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew or German, Lapell’s ethereal voice unites all somewhere between wakefulness and slumber. Some come with English adaptations and one is of Lapell’s own creation based on snippets of a song sung by her mother but the overall impression is less of specific words and more an overriding sensation of tranquility. Lapell is sparse yet warm.
If Lapell’s haunting, echoing vibe sounds familiar a clue lies in her producer, Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. A gentle pluck is all that accompanies the French lyric of ‘Isabeau’. Among the harmonies is a story of a young girl who, while walking near the water’s edge of her garden, encounters a boat crewed by “trente matelots”. It is not only the language that gives each song a home, between them Lapell and Timmins match melody with folk tradition. Though identifiable in all this is particularly striking in Lapell’s finger-picking classical guitar on the Welsh ‘Sun Gan’. Spirituality is never far away, particularly on ‘Der Mond ist Aufgegangen’ as the mist rises over meadows up towards the shining moon.
Again, for eight songs from such diverse sources it is what brings them together rather than their differences that prevails. In all languages these are story songs that explore and throw light on some dark themes that lie behind a comforting cadence.
Lapell is to be applauded for highlighting just how the simplest form of communication can be the most powerful. Regardless of language she exudes kindness and peace, both in short supply these days.