Hundreds of Lions – Erin McKeown

mckeown9/9/09, huh? It’s an exciting day! It marks the last set of repeating, single-digit dates that we’ll see for almost a century (until January 1, 2101), and the Remastered Beatles catalog, Beatles Rock Band, and the new Apple iPod are all being released today.

But my favorite celebration today is my third wedding anniversary with the extraordinary Christopher Gandin Le. Suicide prevention expert, exquisite photographer (still and motion pictures), beloved friend, and the best damn husband and partner I could ever desire.

For our anniversary, he gave me the gift of music from one of my favorite artists: Erin McKeown. Since I first heard Distillation 9 years ago, I have loved this woman’s music, and have had a total crush on her as well. She’s excruciatingly talented across a wide variety of instruments and musical styles, her lyrics are poetic, her style is fantastic (check those Fluevogs!), and her live show is always fabulous. Oh, and she’s only 31; she’s been making great music since she was in college.

Her newest album, Hundreds of Lions, comes out this October on Righteous Babe records, and to raise funds for this self-financed album, she launched a very cool endeavor this summer.

Photo Credit: Nancy Palmieri

defianceCabin Fever” comprises four one-hour performances that were broadcast live from her home in MA: one from her living room (during a great thunderstorm), one from her front porch, one from the middle of her river (literally: she sits on a rock in the water), and the last from her front yard. In the fourth episode, she performs the new album in its entirety. Fans can still pay $10 to watch one episode or $30 to watch all four episodes. I missed the live webcasts, so I’m thrilled to be celebrating today by watching them and hearing her new album!

It’s a delicious pleasure to follow an artist through their career. When you buy their new albums as soon as they come out and listen to them thoroughly, their music weaves tightly into your own life story. I can remember parts of my life more clearly when I listen to the Erin McKeown album I was listening to at the time. (You can click on the album cover to be taken to audio previews of her music. You won’t be sorry.)

I felt creatively stumped and scared when her first major release, Distillation, came out during my senior year of college, and I took inspiration from her enthusiastic creativity and drive at such a young age.


The colorful, upbeat Grand came out in the middle of my great heartbreak, and brightened an otherwise dark, painful time. (And three years later, I danced my ass off to “Cinematic” at our wedding reception, the fruit borne from that fertile sad soil.)


We Will Become Like Birds wafted through a bit later than its release date, because I was broke when it came out and couldn’t buy it right away. I remember listening to “Float” over and over as I worked on Tuesday because of the lines “i must avert my eyes” and “don’t land, don’t land.”


We saw Erin perform from Sing You Sinners at Joe’s Pub in NYC soon before we left, one of my favorite places to hear her. We also bought this on vinyl, and it’s now a regular at most social gatherings held at our house.

200px-lafayetteAnd Chris and I were singing along with Lafayette when we first spotted the Austin skyline after our cross-country move back to Texas. We were at one of the concerts used for the live recording, and kept straining to see if we could hear our whoops or hollers on the disc. Hers was also the first concert we went to in our new hometown; she played at the Cactus Cafe right after we moved here.

I am not a musician, though I often want to be when I watch Erin McKeown perform. (I have yet to pick up that steel guitar.) By shining her light, she inspires me to do the same with mine, which I do through my writing. As I reflect on what her music means to me, I think how lovely it would be for my writing to weave into a reader’s life story in the same way. May it one day be so.

Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Beauty in a Wicked World, Career/Life, Music, Pop Culture, Writing

One response to “Hundreds of Lions – Erin McKeown

  1. I love how “music weaves tightly into your own life story,” as you write here. Her music is gorgeous, and so is your writing.