Jenny Bird's 'New Story' charts the Taos musician's next chapter

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 9/11/19

Do you know Jenny Bird? If not, then you haven't been here long enough. Bird is one of those people who draws fans and friends like a magnet - mostly it begins with her music, but it …

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Jenny Bird's 'New Story' charts the Taos musician's next chapter

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Do you know Jenny Bird? If not, then you haven't been here long enough.

Bird is one of those people who draws fans and friends like a magnet - mostly it begins with her music, but it also has a lot to do with her personality. A performer since she was 10 -- and in fact was at one time a pretty big name in the Netherlands -- the folk artist has made her home in Taos where she has quietly built quite a catalogue of recordings. She also regularly tours the United States and Europe, where she will be in October.

This week, she launches her 17th CD. This one is titled "New Story," and she is planning to launch it Sunday (Sept. 15), 7 p.m., at Unity of Taos, 69 Blueberry Hill in Taos, where she plays regularly on Sundays.

Performing with her will be her longtime friends and collaborators Omar Rane, Michael Mandrell and Adrienne Braswell. We caught up with her via email and posed a few questions.

Why is your new album called "New Story"?

The song, "New Story," was started 35 years ago after I saw "Star Wars" and was appalled that evil was depicted as the black Orks and Darth Vader. When will we change the "power over" narrative of our culture? Last summer, while playing in Canada, the song finally came to me. It's my favorite song I've ever written. With 17 CDs of original music, that's a darned good song, and it began the collection of songs about what our next wave of collective consciousness will include: working together with each other and with nature.

What's it like for you to get together with the group of musicians you'll be performing with at this concert?

I have toured primarily, for the last 20 years, with guitarist Michael Mandrell. Our styles complement each other really well. He has this stunning lyrical quality to his playing, where as my guitar style is more rhythmic. I have made my last 10 CDs with guitarist Omar Rane. We hear what the songs need in a symbiotic mind meld that is musically unique. Adrienne Braswell sang on my first CD, "Mesa Sea," that I recorded in 1986 at Morten Nilssen's Moondance Studio, and we've been singing together ever since. These three musicians are all so good, it makes my heart rejoice, hearing what they offer to each song.

If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?

My prayer for the world is to understand and implement the necessity and benefit of diversity. How every person, plant and creature has something to offer the whole that is necessary for the whole to thrive. I grew up traveling the world, and it's why I have lived in Taos for over 40 years. Diversity in language and culture is essential to a thriving web of life, and we embody that in Taos on a daily basis. Today, I have the privilege of singing with 102-year-old Taos Pueblo elder, Jeri Track, which I do every week for the past several years. Hearing her voice singing gives me the deepest feeling of peace and connectedness to what is good in the world. Singing and working together creates the "New Story" daily. We are the new story, right now.

In conclusion, Bird mentioned that a video for "New Story," shot by Skip Belyea, can be viewed on YouTube, on her website (jennybird.com) and on the Jenny Bird Music Facebook page. And, last, she mentioned a particular moment with actor Jack Nicholson she recently remembered from Dennis Hopper's funeral at the historic San Francisco de Asis Church. "After I sang 'Ave Maria' at Dennis Hopper's funeral, Jack shook my hand and said I had 'a lovely voice.'"

Tickets to the show are $10-$20 on a sliding scale. For more, call the venue at (575) 751-1452.

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