P. O. BOX 333
Center Valley, PA 18034
A review written for the Folk Acoustic Music Exchange
by R. A. B. Perch
With 1998 finally here, it's time to look back over the past year and sift through the stacks of CDs, measuring one CD against another, narrowing down the wide and varied field until we have our Top Ten Albums of 1997. Although this process of elimination is challenging, it's not what interests me the most. I'd rather turn my attention to the categories of Best Kept Secret of 1997, New Discovery of the Year, Folk Artist to Watch or other similar categories. I didn't have a hard time deciding whose name to put down for these categories, though. The answer was Jackie Tice each time. No question about it.
Blue Coyote is Tice's second CD (a follow-up to her 1993 release, Grateful Heart), and is hard evidence of the talent that lead her to win, among other awards, Kerrville's New Folk Award of 1996. Jackie has been playing the folk circuit for more than sixteen years, paying her dues at open mikes and bars and the lessons of these years are apparent on Blue Coyote. This is a folk CD with a beat. Jackie and producer John Pease have crafted a solid, cohesive album. Tice has a poet's touch when it comes to writing lyrics. She can set a scene, and create mood with a few well-chosen words or with a strong image, while keeping the song accessible to the listener. Jackie also knows how to spin a good tale, transporting her listeners to a place like the bar in The Marijo Tonight where the clouds of cigarette smoke, and the pints of stout and bitters can almost be tasted. In this song, and in the songs Rachel and Silver Coin, she introduces the listener to complex, believable characters who grow more vivid with each listen.
Musically, Blue Coyote is equally strong. Jackie's acoustic guitar is backed-up by a solid band of regional players who accomplish the difficult task of providing strong support while keeping Jackie's acoustic sound up front and ever-present. Al Guerrero on bass and Kevin Soffera on drums are particularly good, giving tracks such as Blue Coyote and Once Like You a pleasing, infectious beat while also adding a touch of jazz here and there. Producer John Pease takes the band's pop rhythms, and Jackie's folk sound, and blends them together, creating a sound that is softly soothing on one track, and toe-tappingly upbeat on another. Jackie also stirs things up, setting the difficult subjects of alienation and suicide in Rachel against a musical backdrop of pop-accented rhythms that make the song, and its message all the more powerful. She does this counterpointing again in the songs Once Like You and Into the Fire.
One of the most impressive songs on Blue Coyote is the previously mentioned The Marijo Tonight, a song about a journalist who is sent to "cover" a Dublin pub and its regulars. In six minutes, Jackie captures the mood of this pub, and introduces the listener to a cast of distinct, detailed characters. By the song's end, the listener is left with a real sense of the place, and its patrons. (Frankly, this song alone is worth the price of the CD.) Another standout track is Silver Coin, a song that works on two levels. On first listen, it's a song about finding a treasure, a silver coin, but after repeated listens it becomes a song about innocence, the treasure that is inside everyone that we lose when we become adults.
Some of the other subjects Jackie tackles are child sexual abuse (Once Like You), the assignation of Itzak Rabin (Grave Conclusion), Native-American spirituality (Blackbird, Blue Coyote, and You Belong), and emotional and spiritual rebirth (Into the Fire). There truly is something for everyone on this album.
On Blue Coyote, Jackie Tice has written ten songs that are as rich and textured as any collection of short stories. They are tales set to music where Tice is the modern day troubadour whose job it is tell them. In forty- five minutes, she leads the listener through the streets of modern life, showing us the struggles of ordinary citizens. In her songs, people face death, disappointment, and pain, but there is always hope to be found in the end.
With "Blue Coyote" Jackie has released a strong and satisfying collection of songs, which should bring her the recognition and wider audience she deserves.
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Edited by Kerry Bernard