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An exclusive premiere from Rachel Grimes’s new album, The Way Forth


In 2017, Joe Manning contributed an essay to the Kentucky music issue accompanying a track by Rachel Grimes on the compilation CD. In the piece, Manning alluded to how the state’s complex history influences the composer, arranger, and pianist, writing:

During the emotional process of moving her parents into nursing homes some years back, Grimes and her brother became the executors of a scattershot archive of family photos, papers, and ephemera. The elisions and erasures of the past gathered poignantly in Grimes’s mind on the repeated drives along the Kentucky River between her farm and her father’s home. Rural Kentucky is endlessly evocative to Grimes, and the bucolic is a rhizome that threads throughout her work.

Grimes’s latest project, a folk opera and film entitled The Way Forth, is the culmination of these influences, an album based on her years-long excavation of her family’s history and connection to the region. “Through music, voice, and film,” Grimes explains, “The Way Forth honors the emotional legacy of the silenced, the holistic, the beauty in quotidian life, and explores the eternal grace and redemption of time, as symbolized by the great Dix and Kentucky Rivers.” 

Now, two years after the album’s first mention in our pages, we’re delighted to premiere a track off the record before its release in November. A rollicking, roll-call of a song, “The Hysterical Society” is an energetic reel influenced by the traditional string band style of the region. Watch the video above and look for The Way Forth on November 1, 2019.

—the Editors

Find more writing by and about Kentucky musicians in the 19th Annual Southern Music Issue.

Oxford American

From the editors of the Oxford American.