This CD’s title is the truth – it’s taken more than a dozen years for Jonathan Edwards to take time off from his touring and create a new studio CD, but it’s been worth the wait. There’s no question that Edwards remains a premiere troubadour of patient nature’s wonders and the people who are part of life’s cycle. Within the first thirty seconds of “Surrounded,” the self-penned original that opens My Love Will Keep, the rich strum of an acoustic guitar, the sigh of a pedal steel guitar, and Edwards’s gentle tenor enfold listeners in a sense of warmth and peace.
In the forty years since Jonathan’s bouncy but draft-defiant “Sunshine” (“Go away today…”) from his debut LP became a Top 5 hit and gold record in 1971, the Virginia-raised, country and bluegrass-influenced Edwards has released numerous albums, most recently live recordings, maintained his fan base with steady touring, and still found time for a temporary retirement or two and side careers as an actor, film scorer, PBS documentary host, record producer and label owner.
As Jonathan writes in his liner notes, My Love Will Keep came from “a deep desire to follow the music from the stage to the studio.” Some of the CD’s dozen songs will be familiar to concertgoers, but all shine like new with a lustrous acoustic ambience thanks to the co-production by Jonathan and Jim Begley, sympathetic guest app- earances by award-winning bluegrass singer Claire Lynch, solo artist and sideman Duke Levine’s (Peter Wolf, Mary Chapin Carpenter) understated electric guitar (among other instruments), vocalist Moondi Klein (formerly of the Seldom Scene), and Jonathan’s daughter Grace (vocals on the hymnlike “This Island Earth”).
Jonathan’s five original songs on the CD include the tranquil “Surrounded,” a similarly nature-centric “Johnny Blue Horizon” (written about John Denver but applying to Jonathan as well – “This world is missing you…/ Take us with you wherever you go”), the raucous “Crazy Texas Woman” (led by Jonathan on harmonica), the bluegrass romp “How Long,” and “Lightkeeper,” written for a same-titled movie, a celebration of Mother Ocean.
First among equals of the cover tunes is a gorgeous slow ballad arrangement of The Beatles’ “She Loves You” that is more meditation than celebration. Other stand-outs include Henry Gross’s wistful lament of US unemployment, “Everybody Works in China,” an adaptation of fellow Appleseed artist Jesse Winchester’s “Freewheeler,” and the closing “Sailor’s Prayer,” written by Rod MacDonald, which works literally and allegorically in relating “to what we face as a family of man, as a species, as a planet.”
Jonathan’s distinctive, country-inflected voice, multi-instrumental mastery (guitar, bass, harmonica, ukulele, mandolin) and superlative choice of material, arrangements and sidepersons were away from the studio for way too long. It’s a good thing that his love, and ours, have kept so well and rewarded us with this superlative CD.
With this release, Jonathan joins a long list of “heritage” artists who have re-emerged after lengthy absences from the studio to record for Appleseed, including Tom Rush (35 years between studio recordings), David Bromberg (17 years), Buffy Sainte-Marie (13 years), Jesse Winchester (10 years), Roger McGuinn (10 years), and Donovan (8 years). Says Appleseed president Jim Musselman, “We are proud to be releasing Jonathan’s latest CD and other new music from artists who still have a lot to say and whose music has influenced many over the years.”