Aimee Wilson spent a lot of time up in the Northwest corner of Georgia as she worked on her latest release, Unto Us the Sun. “I lived alone on the east brow of Lookout Mountain and had a lot of time to write,” says Wilson. “I didn’t quite know what I was writing at the time. I was literally parallel to the clouds, and it was all fairly subliminal, carrying both the darkness and that burst of praise you find in nature.” This inspirational mountain setting gave life to Unto Us the Sun which combines one of America’s oldest musical traditions with an array of instruments including sitar, hurdy gurdy and Chinese erhu fiddle.
The Sacred Harp tradition is used to great effect on Unto Us the Sun. This style of shape note singing was developed many years ago and is one of the oldest forms of American music. The Sacred Harp refers to the voice; everyone’s personal musical instrument. The shapes and notes on the music staff designate degrees of the scale, not particular pitches. Typically the music is sung a cappella in a group, but Aimee brought instruments and voices together on this record.
“Some shape note tunes date from around the age of Mozart. It’s some of the oldest American music there is, a hidden jewel. And there is so much power in the tunes. I’ve seen them draw in complete strangers off the street who’ve happened by a shape-note sing.” – Aimee Wilson
The group vocals leave a lasting impression on this album. A perfect example is “Celebration,” which starts off with a solo guitar and Wilson’s tender voice. The song picks up when the band comes in with percussion, acoustic bass and crashing cymbals. The music ebbs and flows like the sea; calm and chaotic all at once. The powerful vocals shake the song and create a haunting tension as it builds to the finale. “Down Came a Rock” explores a number of global grooves as fiddle, cello, guitar and percussion round out an extended instrumental ending. The unaccompanied voices are astonishing on “Detroit,” a song taken from the Sacred Harp repertoire that shows how moving this music is. Listen to “Detroit” above and catch Aimee Wilson and her Sacred Harp Ensemble at Drom on September 7th for her CD release show.