"Waking Up To Stone" by Ellie GowersReview
I can't say that I'm surprised by the release of "Waking Up To Stone" as a single today by Ellie Gowers: it's the fourth of her ‘Dwelling By The Weir' songs to appear in its own right ("Ribbon Weaver", "Woman of the Waterways" and "Brightest Moon" all did so before their mother album), but it's also one of her most passionate compositions (and they are to be honest all passionate) & if most of the album tells tales from our local heritage, "Waking Up To Stone" offers balance by shining the light upon a contemporary issue which enrages & saddens its author. It has indeed been released to mark Earth Day.
I gave it prominence in my review of the album & since my views still hold true, I reproduce now what I said then:
"If "Against The Tide" and "The Sky is on Fire" epitomised Ellie's anger & fear about our world, then these are not concerns she has left behind: "Waking Up To Stone" tears into the destruction of parts of Warwickshire (including ones where she played as a child) by HS2 with all the quiet, determined & articulate passion of those earlier songs, and if the sound is a different one, the commitment is in no way thereby diminished: quite the opposite. As Maya Angelou said ""bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean" and Ellie's anger hopefully has that power of catharsis within it."
This assessment I stand by completely. However it is worth putting the song into the contexts in which it finds itself. This piece was written hours after navigating through the Warwickshire countryside wrecked by HS2 works, trying to find which roads are currently closed to permit more destruction & waiting for temporary traffic lights to change at the points where the current traveller is forced to give way to "the future". It dominates our lives & must surely impact on the regular experiences of those reading this article in a magazine dealing with Warwickshire music. The places of Ellie's childhood already lost & slated for obliteration are those of my youth too.
Yet as I've written before, Ellie is still an "artist from Warwickshire" but no longer is she exclusively "an artist of Warwickshire". She belongs to a wider community now & many will buy this song & listen to it without seeing what's been done to Cubbington, nor Stoneleigh, nor Crackley nor many other places. Therefore it is worth reflecting on how, though extremely context specific in its conception, "Waking Up To Stone" can be applied universally as a condemnation of the despoliation of the environment: and this ability to imbue songs with the passionate intensity of personal emotion while crafting it to chime with similar experiences in any place, is the mark of a truly thoughtful & empathetic writer.
Who knows in what counties & countries this single will be heard? Hopefully many. What I can predict is that in each one, people will nod in understanding & say in her or his language, "Ellie speaks too for me".
Check out the video too at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mi8XBJ_WvsI which was filmed by Transluceo Photography (Émilie Cotterill ) at the historic Weaver's House in Coventry.