Renée Fleming has released a new interpretation of Jackson Browne’s environmental anthem “Before the Deluge” with guest appearances by Alison Krauss and Rhiannon Giddens. Its appearance coincided with the conclusion of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. The trio are joined on the Decca Classics track by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with whom Fleming recorded her latest album Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene.
Says Fleming: “Alarmed by the increasing number and ferocity of climate catastrophes, I felt compelled to respond in Voice of Nature: the Anthropocene. The artist/activists and the ‘back to nature’ movement in the 70s inspired me, and Jackson Browne’s epic ‘Before the Deluge’ is just as powerful today in the face of the climate crisis. What a gift that brilliant friends Rhiannon Giddens and Alison Krauss could collaborate with me and Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Caroline Shaw’s haunting arrangement.”
The lyrics of Browne’s 1974 original, on his Late for the Sky album, are sadly even more apposite today. They addressed the desperation of a population as they faced environmental destruction: “In their hearts, they turned to each other’s hearts for refuge/In the troubled years that came before the deluge.”
Fleming is joined by 27-time Grammy winner Krauss (with whom she has performed at the Kennedy Center’s American Voices festival, which Fleming hosted in 2013) and the widely-feted country, blues, folk, and bluegrass performer Giddens. Nézet-Séguin, musical director of the Metropolitan Opera, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Orchestre Métropolitain, accompanies them on piano.
Fleming’s album-length collaboration with Nézet-Séguin, Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene, was released last month, inspired by the solace that Fleming found in hiking near her Virginia home during lockdown. It combines Romantic-era songs celebrating the power of nature with new commissions by contemporary composers such as Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, and Kevin Puts, all highlighting the fragility of the environment and the urgency of the climate crisis.
The Financial Times admired the album’s “floating silver moonbeams of sound,” while BBC Music Magazine celebrated its “exquisite beauty” and Gramophone commended Fleming’s “radiant tone” and “shiveringly lovely voice, from its silvery high notes to bitter-chocolate chest register.” The New Yorker observed that “Fleming’s voice floats and blooms” and “Nézet-Séguin’s piano playing flickers like starlight.”
Buy or stream “Before The Deluge.”