"The Jig of Life" by Catherine Smitko
Many years ago my brother, Vash, and I would drive around in this old, gargantuan car, late at night, listening to tapes. Assorted Goodie Tapes. You know, your favorite stuff from different albums all on one tape. We would find the coolest, ethereal music to transport us from that stupid car to a Once and Future Place That Doesnt Suck. So, this one night we were flying around to a new tape he had put together, laughing worldly, when the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. A song both alluring and dangerous soared, careening between pleas and power, ending in a fevered pitch. "WHAT WAS THAT?" I demanded. Hence, my deliverance to "Jig Of Life."
It was a trip in the studio. We did almost everything backwards. The drummers were available first, so here we are with seven drummers laying down twelve different drum tacks. Sounds like a Christmas carol, hmmmmm? Well, the kicker was that there were no melodic instruments to play along with yet, so they recorded with Kates "Jig Of Life" playing in their left ear. Same with the bass (which I just love bowed). In fact, my mother and daughter and I put down our vocal tracks with Kate in our left ear. Rather like doing the song *with* her instead of *for* her. In fact, the fiddle and whistles and pipes were recorded on our last night in the studio. Needless to say, our engineer Steve was decidedly on top of the game.
I love the dynamics of the song. The visions that must slide in and out at the point of death.......Sometimes a subtle whispering from behind. Other times, a great burst of anguish. So many characters want this drowning woman to hear them. I heard the Maiden/Mother/Crone calling to her, her yet unborn children crying for her to continue, and it then seemed to me that "Jig Of Life" was created from the very elements. I hear the fiddle, pipes, and whistles as the water, relentlessly whirling and beckoning. As the earth, the bass and male cantors, pulling and tugging. The guitar and drums, taunting and driving like a fire out of control And, finally, from the air, some great presence commanding her to take a deep breath and complete her life.
"Jig Of Life" is truly epic and I am so grateful to have been graced with this group of people wanting to make it come to be, once again.
- by Catherine Smitko, 27 July 1998