Esther Golton | Unfinished Houses

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Folk: Progressive Folk Folk: Folk Pop Moods: Solo Female Artist
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Unfinished Houses

by Esther Golton

Alaskan singer-songwriter creates unusual poetic texture with mountain dulcimer, flute, bass, drums, etc. Her voice draws you in like cold hands to the top of a woodstove. Includes songs by indie artists Danny Schmidt, Antje Duvekot, 3 Blind Mice.
Genre: Folk: Progressive Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Reasonland
4:12 $0.99
2. Going To Shadu
3:53 $0.99
3. The Hoedown Philosopher
2:56 $0.99
4. Happy All The Time
4:40 $0.99
5. Unfinished Houses
2:08 $0.99
6. Emily Has Compassion Fatigue
4:15 $0.99
7. Louise
5:21 $0.99
8. Love Is Easy
2:08 $0.99
9. Sugar
1:39 $0.99
10. All The Room I Need
2:48 $0.99
11. Primordial Soup
3:20 $0.99
12. Fog
3:08 $0.99
13. Keli Mahoney
2:59 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
“I’m picky about what I listen to and I love this CD. It is interesting, daring, personal and feels honest. There are very few CDs that I listen to in the process of choosing reviews that make it into my iTunes library. [Unfinished Houses] went right in after one listen.” ~ Dan Landrum, Dulcimer Players News Magazine ~

Esther Golton is a clear-voiced Alaskan singer-songwriter who accompanies herself with a mountain dulcimer. She plays it in her own individualistic, non-traditional way, perching it on a home-made stand, crossing genres from gentle folk to pop to blues and jazz, coaxing out interesting chords, and meddling with texture in order to add dimension to her lyrics.

Esther's debut studio production, Unfinished Houses, encompasses her varied life and musical experiences. It’s unconventional. The dulcimer surprises you, sometimes playing jazzy chord progressions that seem impossible for a non-chromatic 4-stringed instrument. The flute improvs are both lush and spare. Her voice is vivid, pretty, and pronounced. The song content ranges from heartfelt stories to poetic soundscapes to quirky philosophical musings. The CD contains contributions from a variety of musicians including a moving harmony and layered guitars by Karen Savoca and Pete Heitzman on “Keli Mahoney”... a song memorializing a well-loved Talkeetna bush pilot with whom Karen and Pete flew around Denali.

Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Esther attended Penn State to study agriculture and ended up with a degree in flute performance, jazz and composition in 1989. She subsequently hiked the Appalachian Trail, busked in Japan while teaching English there, worked on a commune called East Wind in Missouri, lived the "simple life" in the backwoods of Maine, then moved to Alaska in 1997. Esther spent a year with her partner in an old log cabin on an un-named lake in the bush before buying a small piece of property in the village of Talkeetna, where she built her own 12' x 12' cabin. This tiny unplumbed, 'unfinished house' inspired the song "All The Room I Need". "I needed to write a song to remind myself over and over that I liked living this way," she laughs.

Esther's performance career began with gigs around Alaska from 1998 to 2003. She was a member of two rock groups, and toured as a solo artist in and out of Alaska, peddling a home-produced concert CD called Talkeetna Roadhouse Live.

Then her own creative goals got sidetracked by helping the music of others get heard. For over four years, she became passionately involved with Whole Wheat Radio, an interactive internet radio project featuring independent music. While still living a relatively simple life with wood heat and an outhouse, she and Whole Wheat Radio's Jim Kloss built a larger cabin, dubbed "The Wheat Hole", specifically to be able to present house concerts for traveling singer-songwriters, and webcast them live. Her cabins resonated with the music of the likes of Jack Williams, Mark Erelli, Peter Mulvey, Kristina Olsen, Johnsmith, Danny Schmidt and many more. The concerts were magical, and sometimes she joined the artists on stage.

One day something shifted. She realized that while enthusiastically supporting other artists, she had let her own creativity and expression slide into near non-existence. She decided to take her own dreams more seriously, and determinedly traveled to 10th Planet Studio in Fairbanks to record Unfinished Houses in the spring/summer of 2007.

Three unusual cover songs on Unfinished Houses are part of a side-project to learn and spread the music of great independent songwriters whose music is not easily found in regular media outlets. All are artists that Esther discovered via Whole Wheat Radio - Antje Duvekot, Danny Schmidt, and London-based 3 Blind Mice. “It was a thrill to breathe my own interpretation into those songs,” says Esther. “Other artists I admire write so differently from the way I do. That can be freeing, and tremendously fun to arrange.”

The title track was written mid-project. "I wanted to name the album Unfinished Houses because I've now lived in so many of them," says Esther. "My cabin is still pretty rough inside and out, which is common in rural Alaska, actually. I was thinking about it, and it seemed a wonderful metaphor; our very imperfectness is the place from where we shine."

And so has evolved another traveling folk singer-songwriter. Esther says, "I'm glad there are so many of us out there writing and singing. What a gift to humanity. Each singer-songwriter is like a tulip in a field of tulips. Every single flower has its own individual beauty, there's not one tulip you'd say should not be blooming. And who knows? I might just be the slightly crinkly flower that leaps out into your particular ears and a connection is made. That's the food for me."

Thank you for your spirit of musical discovery and for being open to the unconventional.

“It’s not what your house looks like, whether you have nice cabinets, or whether the windows have been trimmed, it’s what happens inside it.”
- Jim Kloss, Whole Wheat Radio -



to write a review

George Jaccoud aka "Kimchifox"

A Wonderful Alaskan Songbird
Female vocalists are not usually my "thing." The music of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Stevie Ray Vaughan -- now that's the stuff the gets my musical mojo workin'.

Then Esther Golton's "Unfinished Houses" comes along and now I'm waking up in the middle of the night with "Going to Shadu" and "Happy All the Time" blasting away on my mental jukebox. There's just something about Esther's soothing voice and subtle intonation that gets to me. Her songs evoke fond memories of emotions, both good and not-so-good, dulled long ago by the trials and tribulations of life. Not every song works for me, but the ones that do have me longing for more from this wonderful Alaskan songbird.


Fantastic Album
Superb arrangements, high production value, beautiful song writing, excellent cover choices, and Esther's clear voice make this a very strong debut studio production

Seth Sobel

Not exactly what you would expect from a gun-totin\' Alaskan woman
Much like Sarah Palin, Esther Golton is... well actually, she\'s nothing like Sara Palin. She\'s no hockey mom, and you\'ll rarely find her sporting lipstick. But her songs are sweet, emotional and unique. The songs on this album are as different as Palin and Golton are from each other. They range from the whimsical Going to Shadu, Sugar and Primordial Soup to the downright personal tributes to Louise and Kelly Mahoney. Though a few of the songs are covers, Golton adds her personal touch to them all. Then again, it\'s hard not to add your own flavor when you bring a flue and a dulcimer to the table. Golton\'s lyrical work stands on its own though in Hoedown Philosopher who walks around muttering that \"Life must be filtered,\" and in Going to Shadu -- the story of two schoolgirls out for a little fun in their mischievous outing to visit Shadu the horse. It\'s certainly worth paying special attention to the lyrics as you listen to this album. I think you\'ll agree that each song was carefully hand-crafted -- not exactly what you would expect from a gun-totin\' Alaskan woman.

Jim Kloss

Worth The Wait
Although I am biased, since I had little to do with the actual recording of this album, I think I'm allowed to say it was worth the wait. Several of the tracks are the best I think I've ever heard from Esther ... and I think I've heard everything she's ever recorded.

If you are looking for a real and vulnerable musical experience that touches you inside then you'll be glad you purchased and listened to this CD.

Eltanin from Madrid

Wonderful cd
Lyrics, voice, music,... very very good.
A highly recommendable CD.

Christina / Violet Edge

Should include tissues with every CD :))
We drove into the mountains a few months ago, with the main purpose of listening to Unfinished Houses.

We listened and tears got into my eyes on the first song Reasonland. I'd heard that one online at Whole Wheat Radio so I was surprised it keeps GETTING me.
Then Louise ended right when we got to Idaho Springs for lunch.
I said right then, blowing my nose, that you need to include tissues with every CD.
We listened to the second half after lunch, riding thru mountains with Aspen trees showing gold leaves.

The money will always hurt but the recording and mastering could not be more exactly right. Your voice needed the air and intimacy.
All the songs stick in our heads and keep alternating. Just thinking of a title makes a song start playing!

Kathy Kitts

Constantly Building
"Unfinished Houses" reflects a rough edged Alaskan singer/songwriter's finish on a beautifully constructed house of music.

The only thing missing is Esther's genuine laugh. But her singing/songwriting makes this CD worth the purchase.

Ric Taylor

Amazing amount of variety!
Which is what I like; this album seems to go everywhere at once and yet not lose track of its author's personality in the process. I like 9 of the songs here, which is unheard of for me. I can't remmember when I have liked that large of a percentage on a CD. I usually only buy a CD that has at least 50% good songs and I have bought only one other CD in 2007, how's that for being picky? HEEHEE!!
And the arrangements are just BRIlliant! Simple and sparse, but the textures are almost flavors, they are so well defined. If you hear the song once and can hum the chorus later, that's a great song; 2,3,4,6,7,8 and 11 are still with me now; just AMAZING.
As a songwriter myself in the Big Pond (L.A.), where all the Big Fish from all the little ponds in the world come, the amount of mediocrity is still stunning.
So to hear some new voice like this is all the more more rewarding.
Can't wait to hear the Sophomore set of tunes!!!

Marguerite Stanbrough

A joy to listen to
Esther Golton’s CD “Unfinished Houses” is her finest to date. It is unassuming, disarming and sincere. Esther seems to really shine when she crafts a song that is particularly dear to her own personal experience. When she writes of her reaction when a friend her age is diagnosed with a brain tumor (Louise) or she is hiding in the bushes with her heart pounding with excitement as a teenager (Going to Shadu) or commemorating the quality of a life lived admirably as a female bush pilot (Keli Mahoney) one gets the sense of actually being there with her in the moment with all that she is feeling. All the songs are finely crafted and full making them a joy to listen to. Listening to Esther Golton is like listening to an old friend share stories that are important and revealing making one feel close and confided in much the same way Joni Mitchell intimates her experiences. I always keep a mix of “Unfinished Houses” on my MP3 player and when one of the songs shuffles in, I find myself warmed and newly amazed by her gift.