Every time Shara Worden creates an album under the moniker My Brightest Diamond she likes to build little metaphorical boxes in which to play. In an effort to create new and different works, but also to grow in her artistic abilities, each album is given a distinct set of guidelines. For example, in her first album Bring Me The Workhorse she wanted a band, a vibraphone, and strings. On the next album A Thousand Shark's Teeth, she wanted earth and sky, so she used earthy sounds like the bassoon, marimba, and wood instruments and then strings, gongs, and tinkly things to represent the sky.
For the 2009 album All Things Will Unwind, Shara only wanted to use acoustic sounds, and for the most part she was able to stay in that framework. The album was also written as a response to current news headlines, which told of the many horrific atrocities that humans were enacting upon the earth and each other. Specifically, things like oil spills, tsunamis, North Korean starvation camps, and a significant rise in human trafficking and sexual slavery. It was against this backdrop that Shara muscled the determination to speak into the darkness of the earth's unwinding.
In true form with the rest of her works, Worden delicately weaves elements of opera and theater into the fabric of this album. Her history with performance art stretches back beyond the time she spent as the cheerleading captain for Sufjan Steven's Illinoisemakers. And further still past her years studying opera at the University of North Texas. At an early age, she became a multi-instrumentalist in a family of musical evangelists where her mother played the organ and her father was an award-winning accordionist.
Much of All Things Will Unwind was written for the chamber ensemble yMusic. Their contrapuntal melodies add a depth and reverence to the album's pop feel. Shara also collaborated with fellow Asthmatic Kitty musician DM Stith, who lent his vocals on a few tracks. All of these things only add to the most compelling instrument on the album. Shara's voice. She dramatically demonstrates the full range of her abilities and control throughout this album and it is pure joy to behold.
If there's one song that embodies the overall message and feeling of this album, it's "Be Brave". Shara wrote this song in direct response to all that was happening in the world...and she did it in only 5 minutes. In the video, Shara calls on her part-Cherokee heritage and enlists the help of Jessica Dessner as they perform a veritable rain dance for change and strength of will. Using a mask to add to the drama, Shara gives herself a pep talk to encourage hope and action. Who are we anyway if we're apathetic when faced with tragedy? The mask is said to represent the wisdom and strength of her grandmother who unfortunately died that year, just one day before her 100th birthday.
Other essential tracks are "We Added it Up", "Everything is in Line", and "High Low Middle", a swinging philosophical romp through class differences and the importance of perspective. Shara effortlessly delivers her captivating vocals with the skill and dramatic precision of a trained theater performer, carefully building onto the stripped down melody of "She Does Not Brave the War" or the nuanced orchestral movements of "In The Beginning". This is a strong album; complex and full of emotion.
The album crescendos into the captivating "I Have Never Loved Someone". Even more stirring is this video of Shara performing the song in a Take Away Show for La Blogothèque when she was on tour in 2011. It was early one Sunday morning at a bar in Berlin, Germany. The bar staff had just arrived and were going about their routine of setting up for another day. By the end of the song, there wasn't a dry eye in the building.
Every song tells a story. Sometimes we're able to journey with the artist completely share in their intended thoughts or feelings. Other times, we interpret a song through the lens of our own emotions, thoughts, or beliefs and end up in a different place altogether. While this song was written for her son, Constantine, I can't help but hear the echo of a personal love song from God; singing of His love and desire to be known by each of us, his greatest creation. "You're okay. You're okay."
Her latest full-length album is entitiled This Is My Hand and was released in September of 2014. You can listen to it on Spotify, or support My Brightest Diamond and download the album on iTunes or Amazon.