Video Premiere: Dawn Landes, "Oh, Amelia"

by Henry Carrigan (@henry.carrigan), Folk Alley

Folk Alley Song Premiere Dawn Landes Oh Amelia ROW
photo: Shannon Kelly

In 1998, Tori Murden McClure, then a project administrator in Louisville, Kentucky, set out from Nags Head, North Carolina, to row solo across the Atlantic in a twenty-three foot boat. Eight days out, she lost communications, going seventy-eight days without communicating with anyone on land. On September 5, 1998, Hurricane Danielle disrupted her journey, and she capsized fifteen times over three days, some of them end-over-end pitch-poles. Although she had to be rescued in this first attempt, she set out again one year later and became the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic. In 2009, McClure wrote about her experiences in her autobiography, A Pearl in the Storm.

Inspired by McClure’s story, Dawn Landes tells McClure’s story in song on her new album ROW, out October 2. For this musical, Landes wrote all the music and lyrics while award-winning playwright Daniel Goldstein wrote the story, based on McClure’s book.

On the newest single from the album, Landes imagines a conversation between McClure and Amelia Earhart. As Landes writes: "'Oh Amelia' is the second single from my new album ROW about the Trans-Atlantic rower Tori Murden McClure. In this song, after two months at sea and nearly 60 days without any human communication, Tori hallucinates a visit from fellow explorer and pioneer of the skies, Amelia Earhart. The song features two of my favorite music-makers from Kentucky, Rachel Grimes on piano and guest vocals by Brigid Kaelin. In the song, Brigid is the voice of Amelia and I'm singing the part of Tori. The ending text is some of the most beautiful writing I've encountered, from Walter Lippmann's column upon the death of Amelia Earhart, July 8, 1937. Joining us for the big ending is the choral ensemble SONUS a brilliant choir based in Nashville, TN.

On May 21, 1932, Earhart became the first woman - and the only person since Charles Lindbergh - to fly nonstop and alone across the Atlantic. She left Newfoundland, Canada, and landed 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland.”

“Oh Amelia” opens simply and sparely with Grimes’ wraithlike piano runs that flow into the Landes’ soaring vocals. The sparse sonic structure of the song, with Landes’ and Kahlin’s vocals calling to each other and weaving around Grimes’ stately piano, evoke a dream-like state in which McClure converses with Earhart. In the song Landes imagines the conversation between the two women; McClure asks Earhart a series of questions that animate McClure’s own dreams: “Did you feel any doubt/Falling from 3,000 feet the time you spun out?” “How did you want to be remembered?”

Toward the middle of “Oh Amelia,” the singer launches into a recitative that the perceived uselessness of adventures lifts us out of the uselessness of the habits in our lives, challenging us, transporting us, and affirming our hopes and beliefs in ourselves.

“Oh Amelia” celebrates Earhart’s and McClure’s accomplishments, revealing a vision of the yearning to reach beyond ourselves to be more truly ourselves.


ROW, out October 2, is available now for pre-order HERE.

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