Eliza Edens | photo by Elizabeth Ibarra
Eliza Edens explores all things temporal on the contemplative folk tour de force Time Away From Time
Philadelphia singer-songwriter Eliza Edens grew up in rural Massachusetts with parents whose occupations clearly affected her own worldview. One is a gardener, one is a journalist, and in Edens’ new record Time Away From Time — self released this past week — we find a keen wordsmith with a love of nature; her lyrics are populated with images of mountain peaks and valley crocuses, of oceans and deserts.
Moreso than the broader ecological world outside of our insular personal world, Edens’ record is a reflection on all things temporal — the passing of hours, the passing of years, the collective journey into the future from which we cannot return. And she delivers these ruminations with a warm, wistful, contemplative voice reminiscent of Laura Marling, Judee Sill, and Joan Baez.
“Garden Of Sound” opens the set on a fast acoustic fingerpicked lead, with atmospheres built around it with e-bow guitar by Dexter Wolfe, saxophone by Nelson Devereaux, and mallet cymbal washes by Murphy Janssen. Edens worked with an exemplary roster of players on this record — the arrangement of string players Lyle de Vitry, Greg Byers, and Clifton Nesseth on “When Silence Turns To Sound” is particularly beautiful — but her voice and words lead the journey.
The pensive rocker “Long Drive” has a Jeff Tweedy-ish outlook, a nervy discomfort with the ultra-connected world: “You’re a whisper in the streaming sea of telephone wires and flashing screens.” Those themes echo on the anxiety-fueled “Days, Nights,” which Edens said on social media is “a great song for spacing out on public transit, dreaming of past lives, and reveling in the last bits of icy chill that winter has to offer.”
The title track is a master stroke of pacing, with the chorus set apart from the verses by a complete pause, and the silence within that pause contains entire worlds — “steal me away from minutes and hours and days,” Edens sings, and truly she and her players are able to offer listeners that escape into contemplation, if only for a fleeting moment. Finding space for thought is also a theme in “I’m No Prisoner Of Time,” which she wrote after returning from a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation course and reflecting on that experience. “I’m here to release myself from time again,” she sings, and it’s a moment of peace we all could use.
Time Away From Time was recorded in part thanks to a grant from the revered Cambridge folk venue Club Passim that Edens received in 2017; she was supposed to play an album release this Sunday at Ortlieb’s, but that is obviously no longer happening, and she’s turned to live streams instead, using them to collect donations for Passim’s emergency relief fund to help artists affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Listen to Time Away From Time below, grab a download or order a physical copy at Bandcamp, and follow her on Instagram for more on future virtual gigs.