“Over the past two years while living in Italy, I’ve set and met my goal of completing at least two new songs a month. It’s been great!”
So says Lucia Comnes who just wrapped up her fourth full-length album, Held In The Arms, a collection of thirteen new songs centered around the theme of ‘things that nurture.’
Each song tells a story in her ‘singular voice’ and impassioned fiddle playing, accompanied by stringed and other instruments. You’ll recognize the influence of American roots music in the arrangements as she weaves folk, blues, country, early rock & roll, indie and bluegrass influences, with nods to some of her favorite songwriters such as Chuck Berry, Bill Monroe, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch, Ed Sheeran, Clarence Bucaro and Tim Grimm.
“There’s nothing like the feeling of being held,” Lucia says, “and these are songs about the things that hold me and the people I love.” The album title was taken from the chorus lyric of her song, ‘On The Farm’ (track 2), about a dear friend who founded Big Mesa Farm, an organic vegetable farm in Bolinas, California: “…The work never ends but she’s held in the arms, of all that really matters on the farm.” Similar images surface in other lyrics as she sings of family, friendship, childhood, connection to one’s homeland, horses, and offers a glimpse into the lives of girls and women whose unique female light shines through their character. Says Lucia, “This is an all-ages album because there’s nothing too dark or heavy in the stories. The songs will give you a lift, and I hope the album feels like a great big hug.”
The tracks feature the musical talent of Lucia’s long-time collaborator and co-producer, Gawain Mathews, who joins her on harmony vocals and plays more instruments than anyone in his right mind: acoustic and electric guitar, dobro, mandolin, mandola, banjo, bass, accordion, Hammond B3 organ, piano and percussion. They include drums to stir up the rhythm section in a few numbers and Lucia’s fiddle is featured in all but one track. ‘Grace’ (track 3) turned out to be a real Nashville gem, which Lucia co-wrote with songwriter Richard Mitchell (Springfield, TN), featuring his soulful guitar playing. The arrangements offer a variety of instrumentation and yet all hang together with a deep appreciation of the folk Americana sound.
Lucia’s previous album – Love, Hope & Tyranny – was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and produced with Jeffrey Wood (Luka Bloom, Penelope Houston). It also featured thirteen of Lucia’s original songs and an impressive list of contributors, including background vocals from the delightful T Sisters.
Lucia has accompanied Joan Baez in concert, recently performed at the opening ceremony of the Art Biennale of Venice, Italy, was selected to perform ‘America The Beautiful’ on solo violin at the Oakland Coliseum to open the Raiders/Steelers Football game, opened for Paul Brady (an Irish legend whose songs are hits for Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner & Cher), collaborates with Irish artists, Liam Ó Maonlaí (Hothouse Flowers) and Séamus Begley, American songwriter, Tim Grimm, and modern dance pioneer, Anna Halprin.
Born in San Francisco, Lucia Comnes started her professional career in 2002 as a vocalist with Kitka, the Oakland-based women’s a cappella vocal ensemble specializing in Balkan/Eastern European folk music. At the same time she began delving deep into Irish music and studied with many fiddle masters (Martin Hayes, Kevin Burke, Oisín MacDiarmada) in the U.S. and Ireland. She also attended the Traditional Irish Music Program at University College, Cork, to study spoken Gaelic and sean-nos, or “old-style” singing. She returned to California to study songwriting with Bonnie Hays and was recognized by the Dallas Songwriters Association in 2014 for her song ‘No Hiding Place’ (Love, Hope & Tyranny – 2015) which won Best Song of the Year and First Place in the Americana category.
“For me folk music is a way of getting as close as possible to the source ingredients of any musical genre. It’s the difference between eating at a Michelin star restaurant or preparing a meal at home with freshly harvested organic veggies. Both options are great. But in the simple, home-cooked meal it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will still taste the land in the food. In folk music, you can still sense the land where the music was born.”
Along with her passion for music, Lucia has made a lifelong commitment to meeting the environmental challenges of our time. In her compositions, Lucia strives to bring people back to connection with nature and with their own roots. A portion of proceeds from ‘Held in the Arms’ will go to California fire victims.
As Lucia continues to move fluidly between musical genres, it is her imagination that distinguishes her from the rest. Her new album, Held In The Arms, is another heartfelt chapter in Lucia Comnes’ brilliant musical journey.
Artist’s website: http://www.luciacomnes.com/
Read Mike Davies’ review of Love, Hope & Tyranny: http://folking.com/lucia-comnes-love-hope-tyranny-delfina-dr384-lc07/
‘Kiss You In Rome’ – official video: