Jesse Terry and Alex Wong present the Kivalina EP
On a sliver of frozen land along the Chukchi Sea sits the tiny Alaskan village of Kivalina. For generations, the native people of the region have hunted whales from camps atop the sea ice. In recent years, thinning ice has made it difficult to continue whale hunting – or indeed, to live here at all.
These are dangerous times for the people of Kivalina. Their story – part heartbreak and part resilience – is the genesis of a compelling new album from the songwriter-producer duo of Jesse Terry and Alex Wong.
Terry and Wong are longtime collaborators, each boasting an impressive discography of albums that stretch the fibers of the Americana genre. The creative alchemy between the New England and Nashville artists results in some of their finest work yet – heartfelt, atmospheric songs that fit alongside those of folk-rock stalwarts Josh Ritter and Damien Jurado. The acoustic-forward arrangements, built around two voices and two guitars, are uncluttered yet cinematic in sweep, sonic gems that conjure images of northern stars and unfamiliar city lights.
The project – prompted by a set of news articles on climate change refugees –foregrounds the narrative of villagers compelled to relocate inland, parting with ancestral lands and ways of life. These vignettes of home and departure are particularly powerful because they draw on themes that are both universal and intensely personal.
The end of the Kivalina story is yet unwritten, but the songs – the competing tensions in “Fight or Flight,” reckoning with the inevitable in “Landfall,” the quiet defiance of “Nowhere” – are poignant and urgent, focusing our gaze on a turning point in human history. And while the narratives here convey a sense of fragility, the end result is a set of beautifully luminous songs that reach forward, all while gazing back.