Emilia Dahlin Photo by Lauryn Sophia Photography

Between 2001 and 2009, Gorham-based singer-songwriter Emilia Dahlin released four albums and spent a significant amount of time touring nationally as a solo indie artist. She hadn’t released much of anything since then, but the new decade brought with it the return of Dahlin as a recording artist. She just released “‘Green Things To Grow” as The Emilia Dahlin Sextet, which is playing a pair of album release shows at Space Gallery on Saturday.

“Green Things To Grow” was recorded live during a pop-up event on Portland’s Fore River waterfront in the fall. The performance featured a candlelit meal of Middle-Eastern food and, from what I heard, was a magical night of music and connection. I’m still kicking myself for missing it, but several listening sessions of the album has more than soothed that pain. The songs, like so much of Dahlin’s work, are thoughtfully crafted with words falling like poetic drops of rain.

The opening track speaks of living off the land, and there’s a haunting, captivating edge to it. It also introduces the listener to several members of Dahlin’s stellar band, which includes backing vocalists Sara Hallie Richardson, Katie Matzell and Sorcha Cribben-Merrill (who also plays acoustic guitar), Max Cantlin on electric and acoustic guitar and dodro, Adam Frederick on upright bass, drummer Seth Kearns and Kate Beever on percussion, vibraphone and cajon. These are a few of my favorite Maine musicians, and most of them will be with Dahlin at Space, although Colin Winsor will be on bass.

I’m currently fixated on the line “Breathe in the calm the night offers you” from the song “The Wee Hours.” Then there’s “Fear Itself,” glistening with Cantlin’s dobro and Dahlin’s calling out fear and inviting it in for a cup of tea. “Love, Love, Love” has Dahlin singing about a house filled with sweetgrass and the wonder of the world, an antidote to the current state of international affairs. But don’t think that Dahlin’s gotten sappy. What she’s done is carve out room in her heart for the sun to shine, and she’s put it into her music. To that, I say, bravo!

“Dawn is Near” encourages you to join Dahlin in feeling what’s possible, despite what’s going on around you, both personally and globally. “What once was present now falls away/another chance, another day,” sings Dahlin with palpable sincerity. Dahlin also has something of a mushy love song on the album called “I Do,” on which the jazzy qualities of her voice burst forth in a way that could melt any lake ice in Maine.

So how does Dahlin feel about having new music out in the world again? Quite good, but with a few qualifiers. “I feel a bit vulnerable, that’s always part of putting yourself out there,” she said. Dahlin also acknowledged that she likes taking creative risks, and recording a live album in a self-made venue definitely qualified as one. “It’s imperfect, you don’t get to attend to every note like you do in the studio, but I adore live performance, and I feel like this captures some of the energy of that special night.”

Dahlin also explained why she stepped at least partially away from the recording and touring part of the music world for so long. In 2009, she and her husband, Aaron Frederick, pulled up stakes and spent a year and a half doing global service work in sustainable and intentional communities, designed around cooperative living. When she got back, Dahlin said her focus shifted more toward work that used music as a catalyst for change, and she began working more as a teaching artist. She’s currently a part-time instructor at the Maine Academy of Modern Music and also teaches independently at The Telling Room.

In 2014, Dahlin and Frederick welcomed a son, Attean, into the world, and although Dahlin continued to write and perform, she said her child became a major creative focus. “That’s why (this album) feels like my ‘creative reclamation’ project. Releasing an album is such a huge creative, financial and logistical endeavor – I just haven’t had it in me until now,” she said.

Among her favorite tracks on the album are “Blue Balloon” and the title track because both have strong grooves that pull people in and carry the listener through them. She expounded on the latter. “I’m partial to the crafting of lyrics and message in ‘Green Things To Grow,’ (which) is about my faith in the natural world to carry on, despite all the efforts of humans to thwart that. And our connection to earth, our tending of earth, is where simple joy and deep lessons can be found.” Amen to that, Emilia, and congrats on aligning yourself with a group of exceptional musicians to make an exhilarating, grounding album.

Emilia Dahlin Sextet
3:30 p.m. family show, 7:30 p.m. evening show Saturday. Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, $15 per family for early show, $12 in advance, $15 day of show for evening. space538.org

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