Cedars is a sublime collection of Arabic and English poetry, the words blending in with a humid form of Americana, some modern ambient, and traditional Middle Eastern music. Pedal steel, banjo, oud, and hurdy-gurdy are all a feature of its diverse sound, as are guitar-driven drones, and Field Works producer Stuart Hyatt has brought together a supreme group of musicians, poets, and artists. Narrated at first by Youmna Saba and then H.C. McEntire, the first half of the record has a strong Arabic centre, while the second half features the English language.
A truly delightful record from start to finish, Cedars glows with every spoken and sung word. The instrumental music is a perfect accompaniment to the music of the voice, which flutters and swoons in the air. All of the songs dissect our complicated and often disheartening relationship with the natural world, as they focus on some of the globe’s most famous and ancient forests. A relaxed atmosphere settles over Cedars, and the lilting voice speaks with passion, no matter the language in which the words are being spoken. As music is an international language, barriers disintegrate; it doesn’t require a translation.
In this instance, the beautiful, silky tone of a feminine voice is immediately clear. Swirling, dusk-like textures and sun-swollen melodies remain dry, always supporting the poetry, which feels like the dominant component. A carefully chosen group of collaborators has really helped to create a cohesive album in spite of its many faces, which remain concealed in the background. The emphasis is truly on the music, and despite its weighty, life-changing topic, the music is always pleasant and relaxing while still managing to convey a lot of depth. The conjoining of two different languages from vastly different parts of the world (geographically and culturally) speaks of an international effort, a direct, demanding response to conservation and climate issues which affect us all. This is an international album, and a song for nature.