Lyric Poetry sung from a deep well of tradition and inspiration
An odd, quirky, compelling, fascinating and deeply textured album…
Had veteran Celtic/psychedelic folk leaning indie artist George Hennig met and collaborated with Alan Ginsburg Award winning poet Richard Cambridge in a another place and time – say 1967, when prog rock legends like the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull and Procol Harum were starting to hold court – their odd, quirky, compelling, fascinating and deeply textured album Songs from the Crossing would no doubt be a classic rock treasure.
Whether singing or straight reciting, Hennig’s stately, Brit accented voice paired with Cambridge’s longing, richly nostalgic, sweetly romantic and undeniably spiritual words are every bit as resonant as the hits and deep cuts penned by Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Justin Hayward/John Lodge (Moody Blues) and Gary Brooker and Keith Reid (Procol Harum).
The challenge of course is that this type of offbeat, poetic prog rock is not mainstream in 2022, so Hennig and Cambridge, individually and collectively brilliant as they are, will have to be crafty to find a contemporary audience hip and literate enough to absorb gems that range from the sensual rocker “My Gypsy Sweetheart” and the hypnotic, meditative reflection “Marbles, Feathers, Jackknives and Stones” to the nature sound-enhanced recitation of “The Birches Poem to the Tribes” and the grooving, high spirited “The Colors of Jamey,” a piece about the way the collaboration of souls can both open a heart and wound a soul.
As delightfully and impactfully old school as Songs from the Crossing is, the transatlantic connection between Hennig and Cambridge could have only happened in the modern age. Roughly the story goes: Early in 2020, Hennig noticed a social media posting from Cambridge (who lives in Massachusetts) which conveyed the latter’s appreciation for George’s sung version of the classic Robert Burns poem “John Barleycorn Must Die.”
The two began corresponding and it was Hennig’s idea that Richard send an original poem that he could convert for fun into a pop tune. This evolved into a more expansive collaboration, with Cambridge sending him new poems and restructured old ones and Hennig going to town, bringing the words to passionate life by putting his uniquely eclectic musical stamps on them and singing them in his cool, sophisticated way.
One of the drawbacks of the streaming age is that most listeners inclined to check out this this wondrous 13 track narrative will do so by streaming – and thus miss the trippy, psychedelic artwork that blends painting with photographs. Opening an actual CD will also allow the listener to read the poems as they listen. By all means, if you dare and are in a whimsical prog rock mood, treat yourself!
–Jonathan Widran / JWVibe
Review by Regie O’Hare Gibson, Professor, Author, and Literary Performer
At first perusal, it may seem as though Songs from the Crossing is a collaboration between a musician, George Henning and a poet, Richard Cambridge. But, no. As you listen (and listen again), it becomes clear that Henning is also a poet, and Cambridge, a musician.
Henning’s tastefully subtle compositions and textured, throat-languishing voice, combine with his soul-stirring phrasings to serve a powerful, understated delivery for Cambridge’s beautifully crafted, rich, image driven poetry— one born of a writer who has not only the hard-won gift for wrenching narrative and storytelling, but also understands how to make words sing.
From the folk-rock inflected “My Gypsy Sweetheart”, to the triumphant Handel-esque, “Flame” you are gifted glimpses into human longing captured in brief, intimate portraiture. There are no “filler” songs in this collection. Each is thoughtfully rendered and spiritually necessary.