Listen: Gaelynn Lea’s album Deepest Darkness, Brightest Dawn

Classically trained violinist and songwriter Gaelynn Lea‘s holiday album Deepest Darkness, Brightest Dawn will be released Friday, Nov. 11, and she performs Saturday at Beaner’s Central with the Brothers Burn Mountain. Click above to hear the full album.

Lea’s work won NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Contest in March, a competition drawing submissions of original songs from more than 6,000 musicians across the country. Her newest project arrives in time for the holiday season and offers the musician’s takes on a collection of Christmas-themed songs. Lea’s violin playing is the centerpiece of the mostly instrumental set, which also includes her vocals on three tracks.


The album was recorded at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth. Much as she did with the selections on her first solo album, which paid homage to traditional Celtic fiddle tunes, Lea utilized a unique approach to stamp the carols with her musical signature — a winding and haunting sonic underlay achieved with a looping pedal.

Lea reunited with sound engineer Jake Larson, who worked with her on her first solo album, to record her new set, but chose to handle production duties herself. Fellow Minnesota musician Al Church added guitar, Rhodes and percussion on half of the tracks.

Lea has been performing throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin since 2006 with a number of different projects, her most active being an atmospheric alternative duo called the Murder of Crows with Alan Sparhawk of Low. Their original music was featured on the Sundance Channel’s acclaimed drama Rectify in 2014.

Lea’s musical reach has expanded significantly this year. She is in the midst of a national solo tour, and this December she will be performing in Europe for the first time as support for Low’s Christmas tour.

In addition to performing, Lea — who has a congenital disability, Osteogensis Imperfecta (also known as “Brittle Bones Disease”) — is committed to advocacy for people with disabilities as well as positive social change. She is frequently booked for speaking engagements regarding this platform, as well as inspirational talks discussing her love of music.

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