Jennifer Shelton Licko
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Jennifer Shelton Licko


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"Rambles, cultural Arts Magazine"

Here's a fascinating album: Jennifer Licko from North Carolina collaborating with Donegal-born music partner Alan Chapman on an album of Gaelic song and traditional Irish tunes. The album is named after one of Gaeldom's greatest songs, "Canan Nan Gael" (also known as "Canan Nan Gaidheal"), with its pro-Gaelic language lyric -- and it's stirring stuff!

"Gidheadh, anns ha h-Eileanan Siar
'S i fhathast ann, ciad chainnt an t-sloigh --
She's even under threat in the Isles
Though still the first language of the people."

I soon learned where this strong Celtic connection came from -- it no longer surprises me when I hear Celtic music springing up from unexpected corners of the world, and it's well-documented that the Gaels settled in the Carolinas all those years ago. I asked Jennifer where her love of the music came from, and quickly learned that she has Scots ancestry. Her real interest in Celtic music began when her aunt taught her Highland dancing at age 10. She focused on the Scottish Gaelic music of the Western Isles at university, achieving some fluency in the language. A musical partnership with Alan Chapman cemented this connection, and here we have a great album of Scottish/Irish songs and tunes.

The instrumentals are lovely -- there's Chapman's evocative pennywhistle on "The Derry Air" and also on a short set of jigs. He creates a jaunty feel on a great set of hornpipes, including "The Sweeps Hornpipe." The acoustic instrumentation is sparse and allows the clarity of the tunes to come through.

Besides performing an evocative version of the album's title track, Licko proves herself a fine singer of puirt a beul (Gaelic mouth music), with such lovely songs such as "Chi mi na mor-dheanna," "Seallaidh Curaigh Eoghainn" and others. The accompaniment to these songs is restrained -- acoustic guitar, bhodran -- and she sings one set a cappella. She also covers "Claire in Heaven" by Capercaillie's Manus Lunny -- there's some elegant percussion and guitar playing here. The song works well in an acoustic format, nicely lifted by Jack Stamates' fiddle playing.

Chapman leads the vocals on two traditional (and fine) Irish songs, "The Belfast Mill" and "The Ferryman." These are delivered in country style, with some lively harmonica playing on "Belfast Mill."

The album's a little short at just under 40 minutes, but there's an extremely good (and interesting) balance of Celtic music here. And with Licko now living on Ireland's West Coast, I reckon we'll be hearing more of those Celtic roots in future!

- Rambles
written by Debbie Koritsas
published 5 June 2004
- Debbie Koritsas

"Best Female Musicians"

The Best Female Musicians
Not being well versed in traditional Celtic music I was a bit pensive about writing a review of this style of music, but as I sip on my Sunday morning coffee and listen to "Cave of Gold" I find myself relaxing, enjoying Jennifer's flawless voice and finding the roots that are similar in traditional in American Folk music. For the fan of the Celtic tradition Jennifer sticks to them with a truth and obvious love of the music.

As I said earlier her voice is flawless, and while she is University educated in the tradition she continues her learning journey. It is always nice to hear an artist who is not satisfied to rest on her laurels but continues to want to grow and aspire to be more.
- Dennis Halsey

"Rambles, cultural Arts Magazine"

Jennifer sings in a precise classical tone. This smooth and professional presentation allows one to recognize the beauty and appreciate the importance of this folk music at another level. (Get yourself up off the pub floor.) Here's a recording that's carefully produced and full of tradition. I enjoyed every selection. - Virginia MacIsaac

"NY Sounds"

There is much more ethnic music available today than in years past. Irish music has blossomed with a fashionable trend in Irish culture. Jennifer Licko specializes in Scottish music, and has studied Scots Gaelic at Edinburgh University. I hope she's able to capitalize on this trend in ethnic music; she certainly deserves to benefit from it just as much as the three Irish tenors or the people who keep bringing us 'Riverdance'. Still, if you listen to her album without knowing anything about jennifer Licko or Scottish music and culture, the music stands on its own and is quite good and refreshing. - Matthew Sheahan

"Chaos Realm"

JENNIFER LICKO – “Not That Girl” CD ’03 (Private, US) –
I have to admit, this one really threw me for a loop. The previous disc I’d gotten by JENNIFER LICKO, “Cave Of Gold,” was a haunting & ethereal journey into lush Celtic folk, becoming one of my most-played in that genre. So, when I popped in this new 5-songer by the North Carolina singer, I was taken way aback as I was suddenly listening to swinging, upbeat beach music! Funny thing is, after checking the disc to make sure I had the right one, I found myself sliding into a thoroughly enjoyable listen that put a huge smile on my face. On the surface, songs like “The Good Old Times,” “Love To Be Loved” & “Second Time Around” are super-catchy numbers with a bounce that gets you moving while never being smarmy.

Listening closer, however, is when my admiration for Ms. LICKO really grows. Here’s a vocalist who in the past has shown me the ability to stand with the best Celtic crooners in the business: names like Maireid Sullivan, Grace Griffith & Loreena McKennitt come to mind. On “Not That Girl,” JENNIFER adds to her resume the chameleon-like skill to render gorgeous pop melodies to these songs with a dazzling, snappy & very sexy delivery. When I look at the mediocre talent in popular female vocals today, a field wherein so-so’s like Avril Lavigne, Whitney Houston & (horror of all horrors) Celine Dion routinely take Grammys, I shake my head. JENNIFER LICKO blows ‘em all away.
- Ray Dorsey

"Where the Music Takes Me"

The engineering is clean; background harmonies and instrumentality are exactly where they need to be. And Jennifer’s vocals are deft and without strain. In a phrase they can be described as “Simplistically Stylish in the feel good, fun sound of traditional Beach”. - Michael Roberts


Cave of Gold-Solstice Records 1999

Not That Girl-Sabas Records 2003

Language of the Gaels-Sabas Records 2003

single-'Can't Help Loving'-on the One20inc compilation CD "love, Laugh and Live" Recorded with the Rickey Godfrey band.

Celtic Moonsongs for Sydney-2005 (Lullabies)

Shelton: A Thousand Curses Upon Love-2008 Sabas Records



Jennifer Licko sings a wonderful combination of Irish and Scottish favorites as well as a few songs in Gaelic -- the ancient language of the Gaels. Her beautiful voice will leave you breathless while her fun and engaging stage presence will have you clapping along. She’s an accomplished recording artist and has performed with Roisin Dillon of Cherish the Ladies and Grammy award winning Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas.
As an American who has performed mostly in Ireland and studied Gaelic in Scotland, Licko passionately performs with an uncommon understanding of Celtic culture and language -- traditional and contemporary Celtophiles will immediately recognize this in her singing and playing style. She is a multi-instrumentalist who skillfully plays the piano and guitar, and bodhrán (Irish drum). Her best instrument is her magnificent voice whose beauty has been known to bring many a listener to tears. She is a trained vocalist who has that certain quality that makes for easy and pleasant listening whether she is singing an unaccompanied lament, a rousing pub song, or puirt-a-beul (Gaelic mouth music).
She also offers fun and educational cultural arts programs to promote diversity in schools.

Jennifer Licko is primarily a Celtic Folk singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist who skillfully plays the piano and guitar, accordion and bodhrán (Irish drum). She is a trained vocalist who has that certain quality that makes for easy and pleasant listening whether she is singing an unaccompanied lament, a rousing pub song, or puirt-a-beul (Gaelic mouth music). She blends a stunning vocal range with a sensitivity and warmth that turns her audience into Celtic music fans.

Not only is she an accomplished singer and musician, Jennifer is a Premier Highland Dancer who studied at the prestigious Jo Moore Kalat School of Scottish Dancing in Cary, NC. With a BA in Music Education: Jennifer has the superb control and vocal quality that one would expect after years of continuous vocal coaching as well as classical training at East Carolina University, where she earned her degree in Music Education.

Four Summers in Scotland: It was during her summers attending Ceòlas (a Gaelic music and dance summer school) on the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, where Jennifer studied Gaelic singing with Mairi MacInnes, Roddy Campbell, and Ishbel MacAskill. Jennifer’s education also included the study of Scottish Gaelic at the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Two Years living in Ireland: Jennifer lived in the small town of Tullaghan in county Leitrim, Ireland and she became a part of the community living an ‘Irish village’ lifestyle. She spent time studying traditional Irish accordion from Seamus Sweeney who has taught many well known musicians in Irish bands such as Altan. During these two years, Jennifer played music in the pubs and festivals of Ireland with music partner and Donegal native, Alan Chapman. This experience helped to develop her passion for the Irish portion of Celtic Music, her infectious vocal style and delightfully fresh stage personality.

By combining her classical training and her love of traditional Celtic music, Jennifer added her own contemporary twist, and developed the unique Celtic style heard on her CDs and in her live performances.

Three Years living in Brazil: In 2007, Jennifer uprooted once again to live in the ‘Gaucho state’ of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. This experience enabled her to become fluent in Portuguese and she took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about Brazilian cultures, music and dance.

Jennifer’s talent was recently rewarded with a CAMMY nomination as Best New Artist, and she gained the slot in a performance with Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas in the 2004 show of Rhythms of Scotland; the same talent captured on disc - Jennifer's fifth CD, A Thousand Curses upon Love, is now available on Sabas Records (

With a degree in Music education from ECU and her international experiences, Jennifer was able to create interactive and engaging educational programs of music and dance to enrich cultural diversity. You can find Jennifer performing at an elementary school, formal concert series, a loud Irish pub or a family oriented festival. She is always aware of her audience and her purpose whether it is to be educational, spiritual, entertaining or a combination thereof.

Jennifer has made several recordings including: Cave of Gold, Language of the Gaels, Celtic Moonsongs for Sydney and her most recent; A Thousand Curses Upon Love.