Norine Braun is an award winning Vancouver-based singer/songwriter, who is a talented and exquisite musician who just released her 13th album called Songs for Trees. Written during the on-going pandemic, Songs For Trees was produced by Adam Popowitz, who also played lead guitar and bass alongside Elliot Polsky on drums and percussion, Alice Fraser on keyboards, and Huggybear Leonard on blues harp, harmonica, ocarina and penny whistle, with Braun supplying rhythm guitar in addition to lead vocals.
Inspired by climate change and our beautiful Earth, this groovy and funk based album features 19 songs. Between each full length song are the sounds of nature, like the crunching of leaves and sticks, a rushing river, and wind, connecting the songs like the roots of a tree. It’s a network of songs that act as one big motion of music.
The album opens with “Gone to the Forest,” a funk and blues song leading us into the forest that is the rest of her album honoring the trees. We then get the sounds of walking in the forest guiding us into the next song, “Red Maple,” an electropop, funk, and blues song inspired by the big maple that sits outside Norine’s window. It inspires movement with trees and nature, being connected and symbiotic with each other. More footsteps take us to “Cedar and the Eagle,” a soul and funk song that looks at the spiritual symbolism of the tree and connection to nature.
The sound of the wind leads us into “Aspen Groves,” a jazz and blues song perfectly written to convey the freestyle nature of these trees and their interconnectedness. Underground, they are one tree, intertwined and rooted with each other. The use of jazz for this song is important because of the improvisational aspect of it. The genre is rooted in most other genres, like a musical connector. The creek running then leads us into “Sex in the Forest.” This chill electropop and funk song was inspired by the reproductive process of Douglas Firs, which are self-sufficient in that sense as they contain both female and male organs. What’s interesting here is the immediate transition to “Bulldoze Blues,” no sounds of nature to bridge the two. The more jazz-rock based song looks at the demise of the planet from clear cutting and how capitalism only values trees as lumber.
Rain sounds take us into “Hurts,” a folk-blues style song about how trees can actually feel pain and everything we do to harm them. The next bridge is a campfire which then leads us into the next song, “The Burning,” a jazz-rock and soul song that recognizes climate change as wildfires ravage our forests. The sounds of nightfall, the final ambient bridge, lead us into the final 4 songs. “Overstory,” the electro and funk song is about how humans are connected with nature and the history we have with it. This leads into the hopeful and upbeat song “The Man Who Planted Trees,” inspired by the novel of the same name with hope for the future.
“Songs For Trees” is the titular track that’s an upbeat funk and blues song that represents the circle of life and how trees are an integral part of that. Trees can tell stories and have their own history that connects us all. The album wraps up with “Mother Tree,” the acoustic folk style song, which is in part a tribute to Norine’s dear mother who passed away last year during the writing of the album and to the work of Dr. Suzanne Simard in discovering that trees interact with each other underground and form a kinship. Seedlings depend on these mother trees for survival in stressful conditions. Mother trees are the old ancient ones and keeping them intact helps regeneration and conserve carbon storage ultimately keeping the planet alive.
“Originally I had planned on devoting a song to each type of tree but as I began to read and research I wanted to instead draw upon the global properties of trees in general as well as certain trees,” shares Norine. “The listener will still embark on a journey through the forest but with more thought as to the interconnectedness of all things. I was both inspired and overwhelmed by the wealth of information and the number of people from so many disciplines from around the world working hard to bring awareness to save the trees, planet and ourselves. This was a benefit as there was much to draw upon for writing.”
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