Sweet and Easy
by Kathy Muir
About the Song
John Muir (1838-1914), Elizabeth Colborne (1885-1948) and The Seattle Camera Club (1924-1929) were the inspirations for the song by Kathy Muir, "Sweet and Easy."
More than anything else in the song, Scottish native Kathy Muir celebrates Muir's lyrical approach to Nature. Kathy became inspired by Muir's writings
through an American friend who mentioned his huge impact on the United States. Despite growing up 30 miles from Muir's birthplace in Dunbar, Scotland, she had not heard of him until working in Connecticut, USA.
The song has a jazzy, soulful melody featuring such lines as “Your words rise, like sea winds that carry /
A scented view from a landscape past, cast in stone/ Man of the mountain and of the sea / Your beating
heart has a sweet rhyme... / And how you tell your stories – sweet and easy.”
Kathy Muir says: “There’s a lot in the lyrics that refers to John Muir the naturalist, but you’d never think it was
written about someone who was born over 150 years ago. Great art has the power to inspire anyone and I absolutely love John Muir’s writing, it really speaks to
me. I started reading his books and the way he describes things just embraces you. His style strikes me as extremely lyrical and made me want to learn more about him.”
As her lyrics say about John Muir, she knows she is one of the "... travellers passing through nature's poems carved in stone..."
She explains that she was inspired by Muir's "desire to fuse rational and investigative sensibilities with aesthetic and spiritual ideas – to be both naturalist and nature celebrant. Whether nature or nurture, it really makes little difference, for Muir’s legacy has had an immense impact on this songwriter. First I discovered his words, and then I discovered Yosemite."
She goes on to say:
"John Muir has the ability to describe something you have never before seen but which immediately seizes your mind’s eye as he takes you there in an instant: he remembers the fragrance of Scottish sea winds as a boy that, 19 years later, would awaken his senses whilst in Florida, far from the coast; he compares a storm-beaten book he found in Yosemite Valley, comparing its crumbly outer pages yet well preserved inner pages ‘to the great open book of Yosemite glaciers today’.
He is by far my favourite author and though I may never travel to see Alaska’s glaciers, visit all America’s national parks or wonder at all the great mountains of California, through his writing I can’t help but become a part of his effusive enthusiasm for nature.
As with Muir in 1868, I too visited Yosemite based on only ever reading about it and I too was overwhelmed by the landscape."
The song also celebrates - as especially noted in her music video version - woodblock prints by Elizabeth Colborne (1885-1948). Colborne's color woodcuts - produced during the 1920s and 1930s - depict Pacific Northwest scenes. Colborne, an integral part of the regional Arts and Crafts Movement, was influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. In addition to color woodcuts, Colborne made drawings in graphite and colored pencil, as well as small, intimate and highly detailed gouache paintings. A line in the "Sweet and Easy" lyrics evoke Colborne's art: "... And those who carved their memories on blocks of wood from a maple tree...."
The third influence for "Sweet and Easy" is The Seattle Camera Club (1924-1929). Kathy learned about the Club from a book, Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and the Seattle Camera Club, written by David F. Martin and Nicolette Bromberg, which she says "has enriched my appreciation of art in a very beautiful and arresting way." The book provides a rare glimpse into the Pacific Northwest regional Pictorialist movement with fine examples of some of the Club's photographic art. Kathy's lyrics, "There were those who painted pictures..." is about these pictorial photographers who, through dark room techniques, were able to make photos look like paintings. Thanks in part to Pictorialism, photographs began to be recognized less as a tool to document social history and more as an artist's tool. Kathy explains further, "The book describes how the Seattle Camera Club was formed and provides an insight into their lives long after the club disbanded. Thanks to the club’s members, their work helped pictorial photography become a recognised art form in the salons of that era, formerly only reserved for paintings. By the time you finish reading ‘Shadows’ you not only feel you have viewed some truly wonderful photographs but that you have gained an insight into these artists’ lives and what they were trying to achieve." While the club - initially all Japanese-American - only lasted from 1924-1929, it was amazingly successful. Members exhibited their work all over the world and their photographs were widely published and won many awards. Their images included both cityscapes and Northwest forest and mountain landscapes such as Mt. Rainier - as celebrated in Kathy's lyrics: "And how you tell your stories /
Of painters and picture men who captured reality /
Of a halcyon highway..." Kathy has included a special section of her website dedicated to "Sweet and Easy - The Untold Story" which explains further the inspiration that came from these fine-art photographers of the Seattle Camera Club.
The song is available to download on iTunes and Amazon. Kathy Muir has posted a music video
of the song on YouTube which includes images of John Muir in Yosemite, Colborne's woodcuts, and photographs from the Seattle Camera Club, all "artists from a bygone era whose work continues to inspire and is included for the first time ever in a music video!"
Listen and Hear More:
About Kathy Muir
Kathy Muir is a singer-songwriter of acoustic/pop, with a hint of blues. She has a distinctive voice and lyrical style. As for John Muir, she says, “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re related – though I really wish we were! I would love that to be the
Kathy's music is as unconstrained by artistic boundaries as the woman herself. As a young teenager growing up on Edinburgh's south side, Kathy loved to sing Sunday hymns or 'songs', as she preferred to call them, at her local church. When folk hymns were introduced to the church and her mother became one of the singers, Kathy started to pick up on these catchier tunes and in a few years decided she too wanted to join the folk group. She was now equally drawn to the guitar and started to learn on a friend's old acoustic. In the space of six months she had secured a position in the group and would head to church early every Sunday to practise before the service. This love of spiritual songs has continued to grow over the years and Kathy has learned to find her own inner voice that has resulted in her now individual style of song writing.
As a singer-songwriter Kathy knows what she likes and what suits her voice. Whilst comfortable playing acoustic pop, her jazz and blues influences weave through her songs and her vocal and lyrical style remains singular and instantly identifiable: an expressive range that is soft and intimate, yet sassy and upbeat with a natural, unforced delivery that captures the imagination.
For album and concert information:
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