Harpist Liza Rey Butler’s new collection of lullabies — yes, lullabies — is good for more than just baby bedtime.
The children and grandchildren of talented musicians must sleep better than the rest of us. When Mount Desert Island–based jazz harpist Liza Rey Butler learned her first grandbaby was on the way, she set about casually recording the lullabies she’d sung to her kids and remembered from her own childhood. When her son and daughter-in-law heard what she was up to, they urged her to flesh out the tracks in a professional studio. And since her son and daughter-in-law are Win Butler and Régine Chassagne of the platinum-selling, critically beloved art-rock band Arcade Fire, they then paired her up with a Grammy-winning engineer and a bunch of top-notch session musicians in Montreal.
The resulting record, Go to Sleep My Baby, is a perfectly tranquilizing collection of thirteen lush, mellow melodies — most of them traditional, along with a couple golden oldies and a title track written by Butler. But the achievement of the record is that even “Rock-a-bye Baby” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” sound like old standards. Butler’s husky alto evokes Billie Holiday. She’s an agile and elegant harpist, and her flute-and-strings backing band (which includes her younger son, Will Butler, also an Arcade Fire member) sounds like a loose, mildly jazzy chamber group. As Butler will tell you, you don’t need a fussy infant to enjoy the record.
“It was totally meant for my unborn grandson,” she says. “Now I play it during dinner parties.”