Lily Henley’s “Words Like Yours” is the latest CD to arrive in my mailbox, seemingly out of nowhere, and knock my socks off. It actually arrived from New York, by way of a promoter in Seattle, but its roots span continents.
Henley has an unusual background, to say the least. The 20-something performer’s first love was Celtic fiddling. At the age of 11, she got her first violin, and began studying at fiddle camps and workshops with musicians such as Natalie MacMaster, Alasdair Fraser, and Liz Carroll. Along the way, she was exposed to a wide variety of traditional fiddle styles. She also took classical violin lessons for a few years, but her teacher disapproved of her taste in music, and she soon quit.
Still, her musicianship was enough to get her into Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied in the Contemporary Improvisation program. While in Boston, she connected with other young musicians who were blazing new trails in traditional music, like Rushad Eggleston and Brittany Haas of the band Crooked Still. After graduation, she spent three years in Israel, where she became interested in the Sephardic musical traditions, and added songs in Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, to her repertoire. (Ladino is the language that Jews who were expelled from medieval Spain carried with them to other parts of the Mediterranean.)
These influences all inform her music. Here is a live version of the EP’s opening song, “Two Birds,” with a band that includes several of the musicians who appear on the recording:
And here is one of two Sephardic songs on the EP. This one’s title translates as “Pink Rose,” and the lyrics combine a bit of Turkish with the Ladino:
Lily Henley. Check her out.