Portland pianist Mary Sutton second’s full-length for Kranky delves deeper into her roots as a Cherokee Nation citizen (Saloli, pronounced like “slowly,” is the Cherokee word for ‘squirrel’). The album is intended to evoke “a day in the life of a bear in a canyon in the Smoky Mountains,” with each track channeling a different emotion or experience in its daily explorations. As with her 2018 debut, The Deep End, the entirety of Canyon was composed and performed live on a Sequential Circuits MultiTrak synthesiser – but this time routed through a delay pedal. This refraction adds a lyrical spatial quality, as though “echoing off canyon walls”. It’s music both gentle and adventurous, curiously rooting through soils and streams, in a sustained state of discovery.

In Cherokee teachings, humans and animals are considered to have no essential difference – originally, all the creatures of the earth lived together in harmony. Canyon captures shades of this Edenic notion across eight elegant pieces, alternately meandering, pensive, playful, and pure. Sutton’s playing, as always, is dexterous and dimensional, mirroring the dazzled senses of its muse.

Her father, the Cherokee painter and flute-maker Jerry Sutton, created the artwork. Its yellow lettering is from the Cherokee Syllabary and spells “Yona”, meaning ‘bear’.

We asked Mary about 3 releases that have influenced her a lot in her musical career…

Sibylle Baier – Colour Green

I listened to Sibylle Baier‘s Colour Green a lot in my twenties. She is singing and playing guitar, and her vocal delivery is straightforward, sweet and relatable. I was instantly drawn to her use of time and repetition, in that it feels very natural and conversational and fills me with curiosity to listen again and ride along with the wavering pulse of her phrases.

Beverly Glenn-Copeland – Keyboard Fantasies

This album is a more recent discovery. The song ‘Ever New’ nearly broke me the first time I heard it! I couldn’t stop listening to it for weeks, I think it was sometime during lockdown. I feel a lot of emotions with this song and that is amazing because I can be very heady at times. It’s a wonderful reminder! It has a sacred music quality, like a pagan hymn. In every phrase he introduces a new melodic or rhythmic idea that shifts the whole perspective of the beat, and I’m just now realising that it perfectly reflects the message and title of the song- that we are ever new.

Emahoy Tsegue Maryam Guebrou – Ethiopiques vol. 21

The first time I heard this album was absolutely life changing for me, it must have been 2010. The music instantly put me in a trance, punctuated with cathartic cadences that momentarily woke me up and soothed me even more. I started to learn to play the songs on piano, and when I shared what I was playing with friends, it was probably the first time I felt like I was really connecting through music, and not just demonstrating how a song goes. I was struggling to find my voice with my own composing, and from this music I learned I wanted to make something that goes beyond show and tell. There was no going back.

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