The Music of Sarah Stockwell Arthen & Hilltown Herbals

The Music of Sarah Stockwell Arthen & Hilltown Herbals

Living Sustainably in the Hilltowns: The Waulking Song (with friends, part 4)

Sticky: “Ballad of Mary Magdalene” – Live at the Iron Horse

Richard Shindell’s, “The Ballad of Mary Magdalene” at

the Iron Horse Music Hall on August 29, 2007.

“I Knew This Place” – Live at the Hilltown Spring Festival

The Hilltown Community Development Corporation ( is a great organization here in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts — its annual Spring Festival is one of my favorite events of the year.  I’ve been singing Dave Mallet’s “I Knew This Place” for a couple of decades (  Reminds me of  my family’s connection to my grandparent’s land.

“Solid Ground” – Live from a hay field

Singing Dougie MacLean’s “Solid Ground” in Kip Sear’s hay field, Cummington, MA.  Video and inspiration by Rose Wessel (

“Just a Bum” – Live at the Iron Horse

Greg Brown’s “Just a Bum” at the Iron Horse Music Hall

in Northampton, Mass. on August 29, 2007.

Healing in This Night – Live at the Iron Horse

Sarah sings Bob Franke’s “Healing in this Night” at the Iron Horse

Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. on August 29, 2007.

The Dead Egyptian Blues – Live at the Iron Horse

Sarah sings Michael Smith’s “The Dead Egyptian Blues” at the Iron

Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. on August 29, 2007.

Performance reviews and audience reaction

“With her vast and unusual repertoire, Sarah spins a story into a lyrical web of sound that she wraps ever so gently around the listener, moving and changing them. Her presence is as compelling as her performances are unforgettable, awakening the heart and mind of those lucky enough to hear her remarkable song interpretations. She’s my favorite local singer.                                                                                                                 – Penny Schultz

“Her singing is soulful and deeply felt; when she began to sing I felt the mood in the whole room change.”

“I haven’t fall so much in love with a singer since I first heard Kate Bush.”

“My CD player has become a Sarah Stockwell jukebox. I just can’t get enough of her!”

“Eroticism, grace and a deep, loving sensuality are brought to every note.”

Sticky: about Dark of Moon


You can buy Dark of Moon online at cdBaby or iTunes.


“Too often albums are merely strings of songs with little thematic link. But these 12 exquisitely chosen ballads create a spiritual journey through the human soul, with affecting images of darkness and light, strength and weakness, evil plenty of humor.” (three star rating)
–Bruce Sylvester, The Boston Phoenix

“Most of the well-known songs take on new colors and nuances in her performance. I felt like I was hearing Gorka’s “Raven in the Storm” for the first time. Bob Franke owes Stockwell a great debt for her haunting interpretation of his “I But a Little Girl.” Few, if any, others have tackled this powerfully chilling epic.”
–Rich Warren, Sing Out Magazine

“In an era when every guitarist tries to be a songwriter, Sarah Stockwell’s debut album “Dark of Moon” comes as a relief: finally, a young folk singer who interprets other writer’s work… finesses some wonderful songs… and she brings a brooding power to Bob Franke’s “I But a Little Girl” that the original only hinted at.”
–Daniel Gewertz, The Folk Almanac

“I love these versions of my songs — there is so much mood to this whole record.”
Michael Smith

Reviews of Dark of Moon cd

“These exquisitely chosen ballads create a spiritual journey through the human soul, with affecting images of darkness and light, strength and weakness, evil and plenty of humor.”
The Boston Phoenix

“One of the best singers around, to my ear… Lets the song create her style.”
Gordon Bok

“I love these versions of my songs — there is so much mood to this whole record. It all adds up for me and I am just knocked down by the whole package.”
Michael Smith (composer of “Dead Egyptian Blues” and “Crazy Mary”)

“Sarah is a singer to be reckoned with. In a folk scene dominated by songwriters it’s refreshing to hear somebody doing great songs they haven’t written — and doing them so well. Her a capella gospel stuff is a knock-out.”
Orrin Star

“Most of the well-known songs take on new colors and nuances in her performance… Bob Franke owes Stockwell a great debt for her haunting interpretation of his “I But a Little Girl.”
Sing Out Magazine

“A penetrating touch….finesses some wonderful songs.”
– New England Folk Almanac

“If you are looking for the one CD that you won’t get tired of, Sarah Stockwell’s ‘Dark of Moon’ is the one… enchanting and very entertaining.”
– Mezlim Magazine

“Stockwell is a riveting, mesmerizing performer who deeply feels the music she plays… My one qualm before listening to Dark of Moon was whether Stockwell could capture such feeling on tape. I am happy to report that she has. ”
– FireHeart Magazine

“… Powerful, often stunning… her voice is a gift.”
– Boston Rock Magazine

“Sarah’s ability to weave diverse materials with style, resonance, class and just a playful hint of the bizarre, carries you with the joy of a bedtime story and the impact of ancient myths. She will move you, but you will also smile.”
– Devyn Christopher Gillette, WMFO, Medford, MA

Pickling Adventures 3/13/11

I’ve been running into pickling workshop attendees at the Creamery and elsewhere, and everyone is full of plans, questions and musings. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is for me to see you all excited and off on your own ventures. If you haven’t started yet, I advise you to get a small cabbage, some good salt, and maybe a carrot or two. Then get them out when you are cooking something else and take the time to shred them up, salt them, let them sit for an hour and stuff them into a couple of quart jars or a quart and a pint. and put them in a warmish place on a plate or something for a few days, tasting every day or two, and letting out extra gas. If you don’t have a scale, forget about it… (I’m sure our great-greats-greats did not have kitchen scales. Sauerkraut is very forgiving. I would try two or three tablespoons for this small cabbage and some carrots, and then stuff them tightly into jars until the brine rises above them. Add some brine if they need more liquid and call it a day.)

So, the pickled kale. Well, here is the sad story. I more or less ignored everything pickle-wise after the workshop in last month (except for burping the most insistent jars). I think the kale was not entirely covered with brine, and probably didn’t need to sit out for about a MONTH, as it did. I opened it and tried it a couple of weeks ago, and it was, I think the technical term would be: icky. Not foul, not clearly noxious, maybe even delectable if you were in the right mood and knew it was ok, but my senses were not convinced, and I chucked it into the compost. Kind of embarrassing, but that’s the true story. When I try again I will be more attentive to the brine coverage, perhaps chop the kale more finely to make it more manageable, and not ferment it for so long.

On the other hand, the pink and orange sauerkraut I showed you (and we tasted?) at the workshop was so tasty, it is all gone. I am still eating the roots, also great, but I think I would chop the turnips more finely next time, as they are more tough than crunchy. Tasty though. I have not yet tried the carrots or the kim chi, but will break them out soon. They are in the root cellar chillin’.

Strong, community-owned institutions such as the Creamery Coop are our best protection for an uncertain future. For me, gathering with all of you to make food from locally-grown plants using copasetic food-cultures is a profoundly positive act for a more sustainable future. We are taking responsibility for our own well-being and stepping out of the remarkable sense of entitlement that is built into our consumer culture. How often do we hear — or think — “I deserve …(fill in the blank).”

Hampshire Gazette article on pickling…

Published on GazetteNET (

Around Cummington

Answer for those in pickle

for presents

By Laura Rodley.  Created 12/10/2010 – 5:00am

Stumped for holiday gifts? Resident Sarah Stockwell-Arthen has a few suggestions: homemade pickles, pickled beets, cabbage or pickled carrots or ginger to give as gifts, all without using vinegar.  “Something I would like to get would be a jar of pickled ginger or garlic,” she said.

Her recipes deliver the sour flavor of pickling – commonly achieved with vinegar — through lactic acid fermentation, using the bacteria, called lactobacilli, that already exist on fresh vegetables.

This is the way her grandparents, who resided in Wisconsin, made pickles, she said, and a method she has adopted in her effort to live more sustainably. There is no fuel used, as no cooking is involved.

Another idea, she said, is to build someone some shelves for a simple root cellar with instructions with locating a cool spot to store the homemade pickles.

After taking a pickling class by Dan Rosenberg, founder of Real Pickles, a pickle-making company based in Greenfield., who shared recipes that were made without vinegar, she was so enthusiastic about pickling many of her friends clamored to learn. So she taught a class in October, with Rosenberg’s blessing, she said, using his instructions. If seven to 10 more people show interest, she will teach another class, she said.

Any vegetable can be pickled – red peppers, green beans, garlic or cabbage, for example, she said. While cucumbers need to be made into pickles as soon as they are harvested in summer, root crops such as beet and carrots can be harvested later with a longer window of time to be pickled, she said.

Cabbage is full of vitamin C and the lactocbacilli – the cabbage leaves are coated with them – help with digestion, just as yogurt does, she said. As a result, cabbage is a very healthy food, she said, a natural form of probiotics, an enzyme that helps with digestion.

“You can almost see the nutrition,” she added, as this kind of pickling maintains the color’s vibrancy. “The lactobacilli is the type of bacteria we’re trying to promote. Luckily they like to live at room temperature,” she said. If you put salt on it, she said, that discourages unhealthy bacteria, which is why salt is used in pickling.

The simplest way to make sauerkraut, or pickled cabbage, is to chop up one pound of cabbage, sprinkle on 1½ teaspoons sea salt, stir and let the mixture sit for an hour. It creates its own brine while sitting. Pack it into a pint jar. Put it on a tray since the jar will weep, she advised. It can sit out three days to a month outside of a refrigerator. Burp the jars if necessary. When it’s done fermenting, store in a place 50 degrees or colder. Stockwell-Arthen stores her pickles in a cold cellar in her basement on three shelves beside an outside wall.

Another easy-to-make pickle is carrot-ginger, a favorite of her 12-year-old daughter Olivia, she said.

“Eating these foods with the heavy foods we eat in winter helps us to deal with the heavy foods in the digestive system,” Stockwell-Arthen said.

In this economy, pickling makes good economic sense, she said. It’s so cheap, so easy. The pickling process uses no fossil fuel except for the manufacture of the glass, she said. She uses ordinary Mason jars as well as crocks she buys from a specialty catalog.

She cautions against using old antique crocks because of the lead in the glazes used in their manufacture. Also, she suggests washing vegetables gently, without chlorinated water or soap, to avoid killing the bacteria. Those interested in learning can visit

[1] for more information. Laura Rodley can be reached at

[2]. Daily Hampshire Gazette © 2011 All rights reserved

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Registration Form for Fall Workshops 2012

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Registration Form Wksps Fall 2012


Registration Form Wksps Fall 2012