“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is a Danish singer-songwriter and serial collaborator sans pareil, who didn’t so much grapple with the pandemic but wrest it into a startlingly brilliant and diverse many fronded record of arresting duets called “Spirit Tree” (out on Stunt Records on 14th May).
Once it was clear what was happening in the world at large, Kira Skov made it smaller by reaching out tendril like to everyone she’d previously worked with and others she’d admired from afar. From the saplings grew this tree of hope, and a record that recalls the portent of PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake”/”The Hope Six Demolition Project”, the bitter sadness of Johnny Cash’s “American III: Solitary Man” and yet also a self-effacing, effervescent humour in the dryly witted “Dusty Kate” (a duet with Mette Lindberg) with its Springfield/Bush breakdowns a parody that’s clever in idea and execution.
Skov is joined by a stellar who’s who of the indie and alt country cognoscenti including Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Bill Callahan, Jenny Wilson, Mark Lanegan and Harvey’s oft muse and previous Skov producer John Parish, not to mention a spoken word sojourn by Lenny Kaye of Patti Smith Group/”Nuggets” fame. She’s also agreed to join us for another match-up, with a tremendous song pick, so I bid a warm welcome to VS, Kira Skov!
Skov, who’s a similar vintage to me, moved to London to become a musician at 17 where she met Eve, a guitarist double her age with whom she travelled to the US to form a band called Butterfly Species including Danish compatriot Laust Sonne. Her restlessly adventurous spirt led her back to London to record with Jeff Beck before heading back to Denmark and forming Kira and The Kindred Spirits, releasing a debut album “Happiness Saves Lives” in 2002. Two more albums followed before Kira set out on her solo odyssey that’s led to this “Godly but almost human” masterpiece “Spirit Tree”.
2005 saw the release of “Faith” working with Swedish producer Tore Johansson (Franz Ferdinand, The Cardigans) under the moniker The Gospel, which led to her being “discovered” by Tricky and signing to his and Chris Blackwell’s label Brownpunk, then becoming the lead vocalist in Tricky’s band during a 2008 world tour.
After recording with a band The Ghost Riders, Kira made a Billie Holliday tribute album, and then two full-lengths with the aforementioned John Parish at the controls, followed by forays into cinematic atmosphere, a collaboration called The Cabin Project, recorded in you guessed it, and one captured in an old Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia with jazz saxophonist and composer Maria Faust. Kira’s 2018 album “The Echo Of You” was written in the wake of the untimely death of her husband and musical partner, bassist Nicolai Munch-Hansen and in its heartwrung desolate intensity saw the first collaboration with Will Oldham, a master of bottling windswept solemnity.
Skov’s fourteenth album “I Nat Blir Vi Gamle” was the first sung in her native Danish and here we are now, album fifteen, another branch to a musical journey that bends to the will of the wind and where Skov’s spirit takes her.
I love it already.
I also love Kira’s song pick that totally fits the brief of our deep-rooted series, so without further ado, here’s Kira Skov’s “song for ewe”…
“I’m always craving discovering new music, let alone artist. The thrill of uncovering yet undiscovered albums and the need to remain in the company of a particular artist has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. It does not happen as often as I get older, perhaps because a lot has been devoured by now and maybe you become immune to some after a while.
It still feels like a gift when it happens. Maybe even more so, for the reasons mentioned above.
And I just stumbled across this great album about a week ago.
“Freestyle” by the Norwegian born singer Karin Krog. She is 83 year old today and an acclaimed jazz vocalist. (She worked Dexter Gordon, my GOD )…
Despite my deep infatuation with Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Chet Baker I always found jazz vocals to be a really difficult practise. But this album overall transcends the pitfalls of the genre. It’s really a great hybrid that reaches into the future, sounding totally fresh today.
Laurie Anderson meets Nina Simone on the Mountain top!
Give the whole thing a spin and start at the beginning with the opening track: Just holding on.”
THANKS SO MUCH TO KIRA SKOV AND TO SARAH LOWE AT FIFTH AVENUE PR
KIRA SKOV “SPIRIT TREE” IS OUT ON STUNT RECORDS, 15TH MAY – more here
here’s another taster, the whip smart “Dusty Kate”…