All life on Earth descended from a group of organisms called LUCA: the last universal common ancestor. LUCA reminds us that we are not too different from the chairs we sit on or the flowers we pick; it reminds us that everything has a beginning. Taylor Holland and Heather Scott of local folk duo Hawthorn have created a more tangible version of LUCA with their sophomore full-length album, Maggie Willow.

Maggie Willow is a character born from Holland’s and Scott’s shared déjà vu. Part of it is their shared experiences and part of it is the way their distinct voices blend so well, like two separate streams meeting to create a river. “We’ve always felt like we’ve known each other for centuries, or were descended from some shared ancestor,” Holland and Scott explained. 

“Velvet shoes dancing on a hardwood floor,” “clouds that stretch like unspun wool,” and “a family photo album and the flowers pressed in a child’s storybook” are some ways that Hawthorn describe Maggie Willow. It is a hushed and often mysterious reflection on the self and how it relates to the world, submerged under layers of idyllic nature imagery and crafty guitar-picking. Holland and Scott transition smoothly from a cappella to minimal instrumentation, and from harmony to unison throughout the album.

Maggie Willow is a collection of stories exuding life, cadencing with the melancholic song “The Weaver,” a meditation on death. Songs like the galloping “Come & Gone” mull over the concept of selfhood, while the ambiguous “Lover Trees” simultaneously explores heterosexual, queer, and self love. Evolution of familial relationships is a connecting thread in songs like “Oh Mama” about becoming parents, “Maggie Willow” about divorce, “Adeline” about teenage rebellion, and “In the Morning” about the complex relationship between parents and children as they age.

Overall, Maggie Willow is a reminder of what the name Hawthorn means: a tree containing hawberries and thorns, signifying the inherent connection between beauty and strength. In herbal medicine, the Hawthorn tree connects to the spirit world to provide physical and emotional healing. Maggie Willow develops the Hawthorn namesake by providing this healing energy to a decaying world.

“Broader social systems push both human and natural cycles off-balance: as we see climate change destroying the balance of the earth, we see systemic oppression destroying the balance of human societies,” the duo explained. “So while there are many parts of Maggie Willow that speak to the work an individual can do to be more at peace with the cycles of life, there are also parts that address what needs to be changed in the cycles themselves.”

Hawthorn will be playing an album-release show for Maggie Willow on April 12 at Lizard Lounge. Get tickets here.

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