Review | Songlines

Oras Dezaoradas

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★

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Album and Artist Details


Lily Henley


Lior Éditions


Lily Henley is a storyteller. Here she weaves traditional Sephardic Jewish ballads (alongside three originals) into her own melodic compositions, rooted in American folk traditions. The result of this unlikely combination is a record that is as evocative as it is beautiful.

Lyrics in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) tell stories of everyday life, loss, exile, discussions between lovers, and daughters seeking advice. There’s a sweetness to these sounds, and there’s a power and assertiveness too. These are the voices of the women who kept these songs alive, rejecting many traditional gender roles, and displaying independence in their forthright lyrics. Henley’s work adds to this vocal tradition and the Ladino tongue, which is at risk of extinction today. Though the language may be unfamiliar to many, the stories are delicately reflected in the music, performed by a trio who hold a space that is both sensitive and assured. Henley’s striking voice and fiddle are underpinned by Haggai Cohen-Milo’s unfurling basslines, with multi-instrumentalist Duncan Wickel playing everything from mandolin to piano and cello. Deeply folk and intrinsically human, this record is a creative take on centuries-old songs that is both fresh and familiar.

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