When Mark Erelli bought his first house, in a little town not far from where he grew up just north of Boston, the nearby woods were a real selling point. 'My son loves to take nature walks,' explains Erelli, 'while I tell him about all the trees and bugs and birds.' These walks have not only reconnected Erelli with his scientific background (he has a Master's in evolutionary biology), they have also rekindled his love of nature. 'I have spent most of the last 10 years touring from city to city,' he says, 'and I had fallen out of touch with the richness of the natural world leading such an itinerant life.' Nature's little details, and the sense of wonder they engender, figure prominently in nearly every track on Little Vigils, the eighth album from Mark Erelli. Six months before going into the studio, Erelli was one of eight artists invited to the UK to take part in a collaborative songwriting project celebrating the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species, called the Darwin Song Project. 'I really identified with Darwin's sense of awe in nature, and how it was bound up with his questions about spirituality, like two sides of the same coin,' says Erelli. You can hear this fusion of scientific detail and spiritual yearning in Kingdom Come, which begins by evoking Darwin's finely wrought description of the lifecycle of a parasitic wasp: 'It kills it's host then off it goes, to sting another one, seems to me there's too much misery to believe in Kingdom Come.' 'As I delved deeper into these new songs,' Erelli describes, 'the more pervasive this renewed focus on natural imagery became. I began weaving it into metaphors for how we relate to each other, using it as the backdrop against which everything unfolds.' Nowhere is this more evident than in August, the opening track that gives Little Vigils it's title. Erelli and his wife sneak upstairs to keep watch over their sleeping son, while outside in the summer night the katydids fiddle, bats circle around the house eaves and 'the moon spills silver over everything.' When time came to flesh out the down home vibe of the songs, Erelli and producer Zack Hickman (who also helmed 2008's Delivered) enlisted the help of some mutual friends from the local bluegrass scene. 'I envisioned fiddles, banjos, mandolin and pedal steel, all casually twined together like some spontaneous front porch picking party,' says Erelli. 'On past projects, I often had a specific idea of how I wanted things to sound in advance. This time around, I just chose guys I knew would be fun to hang out with for a few days, added a little red wine and whiskey, and let things evolve from there.' Great North Sound Society, a 1700's Maine farmhouse converted to a recording studio, proved the perfect setting to capture the rustic sweep of Erelli's new material. 'This record really explores the notion of 'scale,'' Erelli muses, 'these are intimate and detailed songs about bigger, more universal things.' While life endures on a grand scale, the details are ephemeral and we can miss them if we are not paying attention. Likewise, we can lose touch with parts of ourselves we take for granted. A rich life, as Erelli reminds us with Little Vigils, is one in which we are fully engaged, bearing witness to the little details that might otherwise slip away, unnoticed and unappreciated.