In early 2020, Selah Broderick received surprising news: her first album, anamwas due to be released in October by the Western Vinyl label in Austin, Texas.
It’s an exciting development for any artist, but one that came as quite a shock to Broderick, who retired from making music professionally in the early ’70s.
“Of course it’s lovely,” says the 61-year-old, speaking of her home in Sisters. “It’s just that I didn’t plan it or put it together.”
The person responsible for this turn of events is Broderick’s son Peter. The renowned composer and former Portlander, who was a member of folk-pop groups Horse Feathers and Loch Lomond during his time here, has been quietly recording his mother’s performances for the past 15 years, collecting them with the goal of eventually sharing them with of the world.
That day finally came when Peter Broderick played the recordings of his mother’s work to Brian Sampson, the owner of Western Vinyl, who immediately agreed to release it through the label. Broderick shared the news with his mother on a Skype call soon after.
“I was just speechless,” recalls Selah Broderick. “My daughter [singer-songwriter Heather Woods Broderick] said: ‘I sent so many musicians to him that I think he should record, but he didn’t. So you should be very flattered.'”
The appeal of Broderick’s music is immediate. The underlying influence of artists like Bruce Cockburn and Shawn Colvin is evident in their heavy acoustic guitar work, but their vocals and melodies have a razor-thin ambience and their lyrics a cutting directness. The record is something like a diary, with happy melodies about the birth of her first granddaughter (“Bella’s Song”) and expressions of difficult times. anam also includes some lovely instrumentals that set Broderick’s flute on a bed of warm synth drones and field recordings.
anam feels like the completion of a circle that began when Broderick was a kid in the DC area, when she retired to her guitar for comfort during a troubled family life. She made her way to the West Coast in her late teens and soon got a gig playing a few nights a week at a bar in Bellingham, Washington. But when Broderick first got pregnant, she focused on balancing childcare with her new career as a yoga teacher.
Music remained a central focus of Broderick’s family life. Her children began taking piano and violin lessons early, and she still played the guitar at night when they were in bed. (anam begins with a recording of a traditional folk ballad she recorded in 1979.) And she continued to encourage and support her children as their careers blossomed.
Both Peter and Heather Broderick return the favor anamwho lent both their instrumental and vocal talents to several songs on the album.
“It’s so cool and so healing,” says Selah Broderick. “Our family has had its disappointments and hard times. It feels like a beautiful connection of who we all are. It’s really cute.”
To listen anam at the westernvinyl.com/shop/wv212.