Although it’s been a year since the Thomas Fire blazed through Santa Barbara, Ojai, and Ventura, the recovery is ongoing. To help allay the myriad costs of rebuilding and repairing, singer/songwriter Ted Lennon has spearheaded a compilation album of Ojai musicians, with the proceeds going to Greater Goods Ojai Relief Fund (greatergoodsojai.org/relief).
The idea for the album, called The Alchemy of Fire, came to Lennon, an Ojai native, not long after the devastating fire swept through town. “I had to evacuate and felt like I didn’t pitch in to help with the fighting of the fires,” said Lennon. “In retrospect … I found myself feeling helpless … thinking ‘What can I do?’ My response: to curate a music compilation and donate 100 percent of proceeds.”
Lennon put a call out to his friends and received a plethora of responses. “There were over 40 songs submitted, of which 20 were selected,” said Lennon. The record contains tracks from musicians including Lissie, Orpheo McCord, Dan Malloy, Todd Hannigan, and Jack Johnson. “The artists I chose were either based in Ojai or have ties to this small-knit community and were interested in helping with the recovery process,” explained Lennon.
While the songs are a mix of genres, their subject matter speaks to the idea of hope, rebirth, loss, and love. “The songs weren’t necessarily written for the fire compilation, but I did handpick them based on content,” said Lennon. “I tried to get songs that were previously unreleased (when possible) and that resonate with the themes of hard times and the resilience it takes to navigate through catastrophic events.”
The Alchemy of Fire opens with “As Within,” a delicate, reflective instrumental from percussionist McCord, an original member of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Aaron Embry’s spare, thoughtful “Life Ahead” and Lissie’s beguiling “Blue” follow in succession. The three songs make for a strong beginning to an excellent record that is full of aural gems. Other standouts include Mia Dyson’s “Being Scared,” Peirson Ross’s “Bicycle Song,” and Sea at Last’s “Grass Is High.”
For more on the The Alchemy of Fire, see thealchemyoffire.com.