Music : Nancy Jephcote : Music that heals
Music often has no declared purpose other than entertaining, passing the time, or setting a mood. But at this past Friday's performance at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, singer/songwriter Nancy Jephcote accomplished all that and more.
Alternately playing both guitar and fiddle, accompanied by guitarist Brian Weiland and bassist Paul Thurlow, Ms. Jephcote played songs that celebrated healing, as well as tunes about Vineyard life.
Ms. Jephcote explained, "I went through a lot of years of being seriously hampered by chronic Lyme disease. I was using most of the energy I had to stay afloat financially, and didn't have much energy for anything else. As far as we can make out, I had undiagnosed chronic Lyme disease for 17 years. In those days we didn't know as much about Lyme."
When Ms. Jephcote was again stricken with the disease in 2000, it was finally recognized, allowing doctors to treat it aggressively with antibiotics. To recover from the effects of treatment, Ms. Jephcote became more involved in alternative health modalities.
"There was a lot of time where I was unable to work, but it gave me a lot of time to write songs. I would hate to recommend adversity to anybody, but adversity does crack you open in certain ways to different sorts of resources. Maybe it deepened me and gave more compassion in my voice, or something that other people who struggle may need to hear."
Saying she now feels "better than she did in her 30s," Ms. Jephcote uses her newfound energy to work on her first CD, "Garland of Rain," produced by the award-winning producer, Tom Prasada-Rao. The album, which is still in production, is scheduled for release sometime this fall.
The album touches on a recurring theme in Ms. Jephcote's music: natural beauty can be found even in times of difficulty. "When you're dealing with difficulty there can be a loneliness in the sense that people who are well and doing fine don't always understand," she said. "I guess my songs convey enough of my familiarity with pain that a person with pain can feel known or reflected without it being about pity."
The album title is taken from the lyrics of the song "Only the Angels." Ms. Jephcote said the song was triggered by her experiences with an acupuncture treatment and that the words started coming to her before she knew what the song was about.
"There are times in your creative process when you feel like you are a channel for something much bigger and more significant than you," said Ms. Jephcote. "Once in a while you feel like something is using you like an antenna to say something."
Though her music has a spiritual quality, Ms. Jephcote does not identify with a particular faith. "I have to be careful because people can perceive that I have a spiritual axe to grind, which I don't," she said. "I'm not preaching any dogma, or any particular way of finding a spiritual life, but I think that when the going gets tough people who find their way through it, whether to death or to wellness, usually find they connect to a source of energy and serenity larger than themselves."
Ms. Jephcote makes her living teaching string instruments both in the public schools and privately. Though she played some fiddle in her performance on Thursday, most of her songs were sung while she played guitar. "I'm most known as a fiddler. It's my first and most familiar instrument, but I'm a words person. When it comes to songwriting, I would say that I'm a poet," said Ms. Jephcote. "The violin is a wonderfully wordless instrument, but when I'm doing my songwriting it's about my lyrics. So on my CD, I have the luxury of being able to play fiddle and sing simultaneously."
Nancy Jephcote, 8 pm, August 30. In concert with Kenny Lockwood and his Red Road Band. Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. $15 admission. Tickets sold at Alley's General Store and Aboveground Records. For more information, call 508-693-9453.
Ben Williams is a recent regional high school graduate who regularly contributes to The Times.