REVIEW: Lexington musicians deliver on collaborative “Rest” EP

By Matt Wickstrom

Artwork by Holly M. Graham

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A new collaborative EP from Lexington artists exploring the meaning of rest has been released into the ether.

The six-track, Justin Carlson-curated “Rest” EP dropped on digital platforms on May 21 and includes performances from Lylak, Ryvoli, Buck the Taxidermist, Morgan Hughes, Will Solomon and Carlson himself. The tracks were written and first performed at Manchester Music Hall on Dec. 5, 2018, during Wintersong, an event celebrating the beauty and mystery of Advent.

The songs were later recorded over the course of two nights with Cole Clark in Nicholasville at Sightglass Sound. Listen to what those recording sessions yielded below.

The EP begins with “Rest,” a cut from Will Solomon in which he explores the last time he was able to rest and his mind wasn’t running at 1,000 miles per minute, an expedition that took him all the way back to his childhood.

“I remember my parents consoling me one Christmas because my door faced the hallway and I had mistaken the Christmas tree down the hallway at night for a giant monster,” said Solomon.

Solomon says the song, which took about an hour to write, is a confession of sorts about how he can’t find true rest outside of his experience with the peace he finds in the presence of God in an almost parental role, likening the presence in the song to his mother and father watching over him, singing him to sleep.

Track two comes by way of atmospheric, melodic soul stirrers Ryvoli. The duo of Samantha Ayres and Jenn Whiteman weave elegant harmonies seamlessly on “Tarskavaig,” a song about one of the most soul resting locales the duo has ever visited—albeit on separate occasions—in Tarskavaig, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Whiteman and Ayres are known for their worldly adventures, having first met in France, where the struck a friendship before reconnecting stateside and later forming Ryvoli.

The EP’s third track comes courtesy of Buck the Taxidermist, the brain spawn of songwriter Kyle Ayres. While the song was performed with a full band during Wintersongs, the version appearing on the EP features a lone Ayres accompanied by backing vocals from wife Samantha Ayres (Ryvoli), Solomon, Carlson and Gideon Maki (Lylak). Featuring Ayres poetic bending of words, the song is about finding your passion and chasing after it rather than following the beaten track simply because it’s easier or more convenient at the time.

Specifically, Ayres says the song stems from his time working on an asphalt crew. He recalls looking down at the cracked pavement at his feet and seeing thousands of ants in a single file line just a hundred yards away from a paver with hot asphalt, or black tide, spitting out and on the way to engulfing them.

“It was about being in a job that took up 50-60 hours of my week,” said Ayres. “I didn’t want to be like the ant working away and not noticing the finite amount of time passing by.”

Carlson steps forward in performance on track four “Walls,” a somber tune about trying to move on from your problems and your past and build a new life and identity for oneself. The song and lyrics have an easygoing flow to them, such as when Carlson exclaims “Just because you left / Doesn’t mean they’ll leave you / These ghosts stay with you / Brick by brick / To keep them from coming back / But these walls don’t work like that.”

Arguably the EP’s most striking performance comes from Stanton’s Morgan Hughes. Admittedly, prior to listening to this EP I wasn’t too familiar with the artist, which made my introduction to her from her contribution “Garden” even that much more striking and profound. Hughes continues a trend of powerful female vocalists raised in Stanton, which has also produced current singer-songwriters Chelsea Nolan and Rachel Crowe. There must be something in the water out yonder, because each respective artists’s voices ooze with passion and emotion, with Hughes belting out high notes with relative ease through an easygoing, happy-go-lucky moniker.

Closing out the EP are ambient rockers Lylak with “Shelter.” Frontman Gideon Maki’s airy vocals guide the group down a weary path back by a soft touch of violin and backing vocals from Elizabeth Varnado, who stepped into the spotlight on the band’s fresh “Leave it to Light” EP that released last month. According to the band, “Shelter” is a song about running from the things we need in our lives even when we know they would help us.

Upcoming shows from artists featured on the “Rest” EP include Buck the Taxidermist and Lylak performing as part of a Beatles tribute at The Burl on June 1 with Bendigo Fletcher and Mojothunder; and Ryvoli opening for Molly Burch at The Burl on June 5.

The “Rest” EP is available for purchase/streaming via Apple Music.


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