Erin Heist is a singer and songwriter from southeastern Alaska who has come of age musically in the world of old time and bluegrass music. Her songs reflect the realities of life in that part of the world, where fishing and hunting are much more than a sport or leisure activity, and a community depends on all its members to live well.
During the pandemic, Heist put together a women’s songwriting group with a number of people she had known through the music, who wanted to meet virtually to hone their craft while performing was out of the question. From that project came ideas that populate Erin’s second album, From The Land of Rusted Dreams, with the help of good friend, Gabrielle Macrae, and both Erin and Gabrielle’s husbands, musicians all.
That record isn’t due to release until early next month, but she has agreed to share a track with our readers as a sneak peek. It’s one called Milk Run about the dependence residents in much of Alaska have on small airplanes for transportation. Southeastern Alaska consists of a number of islands, and not all are connected by bridges, so these “puddle jumpers” are more than just a convenience.
She describes a bit about how she used real life situations in constructing these lyrics.
“Not sure if you’ve ever had that chance to visit Southeast Alaska, but the Milk Run is a notorious commercial airline route that stops in several different towns, and can take hours to complete. And since Southeast Alaska can be a tough place to fly, it also means that if you’ve ever lived in the area, or traveled through regularly, you’ve likely had to fly on the Milk Run as a result of having gotten stuck somewhere along the line.
After some friends had a difficult flight I decided to write this song, and I actually crowd-sourced Milk Run flight delays on Twitter. As you can imagine, they were very Alaska kinds of delays. Needing to re-balance fish boxes in the cargo, birds sitting on the runway, getting an eagle stuck in the engine, waiting for the mechanic to come in on the ferry, and so on. My brother and several cousins are also commercial airline pilots, and I thought it would be fun to write a song using some of the language specific to that world.
All the towns listed in the song are towns that Milk Runs go through and Sitka’s airport is inevitably a favorite because for as long as I can remember, the family-run diner in the airport has offered a wide selection of pie every day. And as someone who is Team Pie, I can never resist getting a slice and a cup of coffee.”
Erin is supported here by her husband, Andrew, on mandolin, Luke Ydstie on bass, Barry Southern on banjo, and Gabrielle Macrae on guitar.
In addition to being Team Pie, Erin describes herself as “a wannabe foodie,” and publishes a food blog called Food•A •Be where she shares recipes for the native plants and seafood they can forage and catch where she lives.
Pre-orders for From The Land of Rusted Dreams are available now from Heist’s Bandcamp page.