Shoes That Fit Like Sand
While editing a book about Long Island landscape painters, I came across a snippet of poetry by the painter Arthur Dove, which became the first two lines of the chorus. I was living near Boston, and its skyline provides the texture for this song.
One of my most durable songs, written on an exceedingly hot night in July 1981. Thanks to Dave for his cooling flute.
This song is based on my mother's memories of visiting her grandmother's house in Charlton, Massachusetts, as a very small child in the thirties. Some borrowed syllables from a French-Canadian folk song and Johnny Cunningham's incomparable fiddle complete the picture.
The Grey Funnel Line by Cyril Tawney, arranged by Diane Taraz
The Grey Funnel Line is a sardonic nickname for the British navy. Few songs evoke longing, boredom and loneliness as well as this one.
Un Flambeau, Jeanette Isabella trad. French carol attributed to Nicola
I love the delicate mood of this 17th-century carol, balanced between shouted excitement and hushing. The singer keeps telling you to be quiet, but the baby is just too gorgeous not to call everyone in to see. Roger Kimball arranged the strings.
Not autobiographical, but an empathic leap into an all-too-common situation.Sing Out! magazine published this song in its May/June/July 1994 issue.
The Pollen Path
The chorus of this song is based on a chant from a Navajo healing ceremony. Pollen, often worn around the neck in a little pouch, celebrates the miracle that these bits of yellow dust start the chain of life that runs from plants to animals to people.
Picture a cottage by the edge of the deep, dark woods. Within, a dark-eyed girl with raven hair sits at her spinning wheel and ponders her fate: she makes people uncomfortable, and the villagers keep their distance. She notices a spider in the corner, and asks her fellow-spinner for some advice about her love life.
Amaryllis music trad.; words by Diane Taraz
This fine, quirky melody is from the Irish ballad My Lagan Love. I wrote new words for it during the winter of 1992 after my aunt Florence passed away. My amaryllis plant is an offshoot of one she gave my cousin, and the story is one of rebirth.
Brisk Young Sailor trad., arranged by Diane Taraz
I found this little-known version of an extremely popular ditty in Cecil J. Sharp's One Hundred English Folksongs. As always, it was the melody that grabbed me, and I found its bitter anguish well suited to a driven dulcimer rhythm.
The first song I wrote after my husband and I moved into our first house. Of course, I couldn't finish a happy love song without mentioning the essential uncertainty of life....
Long Island to California in five days: I didn't exactly catch the details of America, but I enjoyed soaking up the broad geography as it rolled past the windows. We were in Nebraska for at least ten years.
Silver the Moon
While tending my friends' baby Rebecca, I sang her to sleep with traditional ballads. The repetitive, soothing melodies worked like a charm, but the words racked up the usual body count through cruel betrayals and bloody battles. Soon afterward I wrote this song, which seems much better suited for serenading babes of all ages.