New Bern, NC – INTRO - Swansboro native and ECU grad Jennifer Licko is currently residing in Brazil, picking up what she can about the music there. But she hasn't abandoned the Celtic music world which she's presented to audiences here and abroad for close to a decade in fact, she's participating in the Celtic music scene that South America currently has to offer. She also has a new CD cementing her commitment to the music. George Olsen has more.
In trying to assess Jennifer Licko's place in the Celtic music world, I posed the following question to her
34:07 (me) Are you a Celtic performer for those who like Celtic music but don't know why? (her) I like that!
which, in its own way, might explain the approach she took to her third Celtic music release A Thousand Curses Upon Love.
14:35 I wanted this album to be a collection of songs that weren't specifically all from Celtic nations but that were influenced by Celtic tradition. In that same respect I didn't want them to be traditionally recorded in the same way everyone records Celtic music. I wanted that element of let's make this song my own. I didn't want to sound like a robot. I think it was Martin Hayes who said there are as many ways to play Irish music as there are people playing Irish music, and I think that's so true.
The title track of the disc sung in Gaelic, not the English translation that graces the cover might be the prime example of Martin Hayes comment a traditional song, a non-traditional approach.
31:35 I wanted a really strong definition of beat, and that sense, the strong sense of beat because its traditional for a waulking song to have that constant beat there because they would be waulking the cloth and that's a beating action into the table and that's how they kept the waulking going, by singing this song and keeping a steady beat. So I wanted that to be dominant for the traditional reason, but I wanted to break all the other rules of traditional music, and I just wanted to have fun with it.
The recording studio offers a unique opportunity for a musician whose live performances typically involve just voice and guitar for one, the opportunity to bring in other performers to flesh out what on-stage may be bare bones arrangements. And while on stage she always accompanies herself, in studio she gets to accompany herself vocally time and time again.
30:22 I think there's 24 tracks of just background vocals, and when you put them all together and put them way down in the mix you can't tell there's 24 tracks. The nice thing about it is I blend with myself easily and I know the way my voice moves and I can then move again the same way. It's fun, because I love to sing harmony and I never get the chance to sing harmony because I'm a solo artist. I'm always singing the melody line and it gets frustrating every now and then, so it was really fun to record the harmony parts.
For all the talk of fun in the studio and producing a CD influenced by Celtic traditional but not Celtic traditional, there is at least one obvious point on A Thousand Curses upon Love where Jennifer tries to add to the tradition in a tune co-written by herself and the CD's producer Bob Noble. Living in Ireland for a period earlier this decade, she was hanging out after a performance when stories were told about how Women's Christmas should be a month-long celebration rather than a single day which brought the obvious question from the lone American in the group what is women's Christmas?
21:53 They said it always occurred on the day of Epiphany, January 6, and on that day the women get to sit around and drink and tell stories and eat and sing songs with other women while the men did all the cooking and cleaning and all the chores for the day. It was the women's time to relax and enjoy. Their thought was they had done all the work leading up to Christmas. And I thought it was a kind of neat idea and that was it.
A Thousand Curses Upon Love also contains a track whose subject matter seems to work its way into all Celtic discs how a man's love for the sea tears him away from loved ones left behind. That exact situation is perhaps not endured too often in modern times, but in performing the song, Jennifer found her own corollary in her own personal life with her recent engagement.
26:55 I'm with somebody who takes their job as seriously as I do and has the passion for it that I have for my job and sometimes there's that jealousy that he loves his work more than me. I can connect to that song being with a man working for John Deere has nothing to do with the Celtic seas or rough winds or anything than I think a lot of people can relate to just that little bit of jealousy of would he prefer to be working at his computer on his job than quality time with me? I think it's such a basic human feeling and it obviously happens all over the world.
Jennifer moved to Brazil to be with her fianc e she's a musician, and she told him that means she can work anywhere so now she seeks the Celtic music scene in South America. It's small, but it's there she's found a few Celtic music festivals, some Scottish Highland games, even performed at a Robbie Burns dinner. But being in a rich musical environment like Brazil offers a unique opportunity, and while she doubts she'll soon be incorporating the traditions of Brazil into her music, it seems inevitable that something South American might somehow creep in.
02:15 It's not my main purpose while I'm there to do a lot of performing, though its hard not to perform when it's all you've done your entire life, it's hard not to perform and you just kind of desire those performance opportunities, so I am performing, however I'm spending most of my time taking Portuguese classes and doing as much as I can to learn about Brazilian music because when else am I going to have this opportunity to do this other than living in Brazil.
Jennifer Licko's new CD is titled A Thousand Curses Upon Love. I'm George Olsen.