Here is the video premiere of folk artist Kate MacLeod’s new rendition of the Jean Ritchie classic ‘Wintergrace’. The beautiful new recording is part of a four-song project called ‘The Jean Ritchie Experience’. Accompanied by gifted Appalachian musicians John Bryant and Morgan Morrison and other guests, Macleod gives new life to ‘Wintergrace’ and truly makes it her own. Macleod’s pure, clear voice is perfect for a timeless song and theme, delivering Ritchie’s haunting words: “The time for man and beast to stand // To feel the seasons turn // To watch the stars with secret signs // And God’s true lessons learn.” MacLeod’s vocal performance is excellent but is elevated further by Morgan Morrison’s ethereal, harmonies. MacLeod’s delicate, fluttering dulcimer is beautifully melodic, while the depth provided by John Bryant’s rich and warm acoustic bass is stunning. The end result is incredibly effective music that transports us into the bleakness of mid-winter nights. The accompanying video combines footage of MacLeod in the studio where the song was recorded with images farming scenes and snow-covered winter landscapes, visually capturing the atmosphere of the song.
MacLeod explains the inspiration she has found in Jean Ritchie: “‘Wintergrace’ is a song written by the American Folk musician, Kentucky-born Jean Ritchie. Jean is one of the few artists lauded by both the popular music world (Rolling Stone Magazine’s 1977 Critic’s Choice Award) and the traditional folk music world (Folk Alliance International’s 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award). She has been one of the primary inspirations for my own love of American Folk Music. Through her original songs, her modifications of traditional songs, her instrumental playing, and her collaborations with other musicians, she’s represented the spirit of American folk music with both authenticity and innovation. In a life that spanned 1922-2015, Jean bridged the world of families who sang on their porches in mountain hollers, to those who took that music to the rest of the world. During her lifetime, she became a well respected performer, songwriter, and folklorist. She was a Fulbright Scholar, a co-director of the very first Newport Folk Festival in 1959, and was instrumental in introducing the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer to a wide listenership. I hope to share her legacy with those who already know of her work, but more importantly, to introduce her beautiful music to some who might not be familiar with her. I have sung this song for many years. This studio version of the song was recorded in 2022. I invited Appalachian musicians John Bryant (acoustic bass) and Morgan Morrison (harmony vocals) to add their talents to the recording process.”
An award-winning fiddler and songwriter, Kate MacLeod is well-known for writing original songs and instrumentals as well as playing new versions of traditional music. Her work has been covered by various folk, Celtic and bluegrass artists and, because it’s so evocative, has featured in soundtracks for documentaries. Thanks to the generosity of The Utah Division of Arts and Museums, there are more Jean Ritchie-inspired songs planned for the future. ‘The Jean Ritchie Experience’ is an exciting, worthwhile project, shining a light on the talents of both Jean Ritchie and Kate MacLeod herself. Enjoy.
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