Nancy  Jephcote
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Nancy Jephcote

Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, United States

Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, United States
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"The Flying Elbows release new CD Pokedelic"

Decades ago on the Vineyard, before there was a distinction between "old" and "new" Ag Halls — back when the Agricultural Fair lasted only three days and was held at the West Tisbury Grange — each day culminated at sunset with the Fiddle Contest. That's when Island fiddlers and old-time bands took their best tunes to the rough-carpentered stage, strumming and bowing, ducking moths and junebugs, so a generation of small children (old enough to have their own children by now) could dance themselves silly, barefoot under the stars. The Flying Elbows were part of that scene and, by gum, they're still here. Even more miraculously, the old sound is intact and better than ever.

To unveil their new album, Pokedelic, the Flying Elbows will be returning to their old nesting-place, the Grange. There could be no better setting than this warm, 150-year-old building in the heart of a farm town to hear pungent fiddle tunes like "Fly Around My Blue-Eyed Gal" and a medley of "Greasy Coat/Glory in the Meetinghouse/Bill's Reel." The album also features original compositions by Elbows fiddler Nancy Jephcote and a birthday song by Michael Gorin dedicated to Tom Hodgson (Elbows guitarist and singer).

If you're partial to mindless background music, this CD may be too engaging for you. The sound is bright and full, the performances exuberant. When the Elbows erupt into song, often in three-part harmony, it feels unavoidable, as if they are bursting the confines of mere strings. This is not diligent, dutiful playing; it's pure, spontaneous joy whose good time has by pure luck been captured in that most unlikely place, a recording studio. The Elbows are not just flying; they are smiling and well-greased.

Contagious though "Pokedelic" may be, there's nothing like the live experience of a Flying Elbows concert. The camaraderie is beyond merely musical; the Elbows are crack-ups in a song like "Ukulele Lady," where there is not a straight face in the house. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Thurlow is rarely without a rattle strapped to his foot, bobbing and beaming like the new moon over a fresh-mown meadow, perilously close to becoming a one-man band.

"Sticklers for discipline, look elsewhere" warns the blurb on the CD, and it's true — this is old-time string band music where anything goes. Bob Hammond, an original band member from the 1970's, contributes rootsy clawhammer banjo and ?ddle. Musical omnivore Brian Weiland, the newest band member, adds his own mandolin licks and (often simultaneously) seasons the mix with drums, washboard, triangle, and kitchen sink.

In today's distraction-addled, playlist-shuffled, file-shared musical world, will this album find its audience? Absolutely. Here at home, it'll be eaten up. This CD is like an heirloom tomato passed from friend to friend as a reminder that the old Vineyard lives on in our hearts and memories. It also can be handed to the newer generation with the confidence that we were indeed damn good: Top this if you can.

The Flying Elbows CD Release Concert, 7:30 pm, Sunday, August 8, Grange Hall, West Tisbury. $13 in advance at Alley's and Island Entertainment, $15 at the door. Children admitted free.

"Pokedelic" is also for sale from band members and at Alley's Store, Island Entertainment, Third World Trading Company, Healthy Additions, Aboveground Records, Morning Glory Farm, and at nancyjephcote.com. Digital downloads will be available soon from the usual places. - Martha's Vineyard Times


"Elbows Up for an Old-Timey Tour of Martha's Vineyard"

It’s hard to believe that in their 25-plus years of existence local fiddling legends the Flying Elbows have never released an album. That is, until now: on Sunday, Nancy Jephcote will lead the Elbows in a release concert at the Grange Hall for their boisterous new album, Pokedelic.
For decades the Elbows have been fraying bows and leading contra dances on the Vineyard, but when Ms. Jephcote reflects on “Elbonian history” — one which includes onstage musical cameos by Walter Cronkite and Bill and Hillary Clinton — she also sees the history of an Island transformed by development and fame.

“The world changes, there’s nothing you can do about it,” she said in an interview on Tuesday at her Vineyard Haven home. “Martha’s Vineyard has become a somewhat suburban environment, and it never was.”

Ms. Jephcote recalled an era of Island life when dances at the Grange Hall were a staple of the Vineyard social scene, and the Agricultural Fair’s competitive fiddle contest brought in top talent from all over the country.

“The fiddlers used to be allowed to camp free of charge at Flat Point Farm,” she said. “There was prize money, but nowadays it would never even cover a place to stay.”

It’s been years since the Vineyard hosted the fiddle contest, and for Ms. Jephcote and the Elbows the next best thing was to make a recording honoring that tradition


“A lot of people are nostalgic for it,” she said. “I could be a wealthy woman if I had a nickel for everyone who misses it, so we went ahead and made a nostalgic CD.
“There’s no way to go back to the 70s and 80s on Martha’s Vineyard in any area of life. We can remember it, we can treasure it, and what we really wanted to do was inspire the feeling of the live music people used to hear at those contests.”

Originally from Iowa, Ms. Jephcote came to the Vineyard in 1984, but the Flying Elbows, as she says, “go clear back to vinyl.” The band’s cast has changed over the years, at one time swelling to 13 members, and although the Elbows have appeared on a number of compilations, they have never released an album on their own.

“This is a very big deal for us, and we are a better band than we used to be,” she said, noting that there is more for old fans to expect on this latest album than simple contra dance fare. The band has recently been experimenting with three-part harmonies and, along with the fiddle, mandolins, banjos, washboards, even a jug makes an appearance on an album that never slows its rollicking, “loose as a goose” pace.


At the concert on Sunday Ms. Jephcote promises a preview of the band’s next phase of evolution, with forays into zydeco and Cajun music. For now, though, she is simply enjoying the release of Pokedelic, which was a long time coming.
“It was getting a little embarrassing,” she laughed. “People would always ask, ‘When are you going to finish the CD? Are you ever going to finish the CD?’”

Although modern life has done much to undercut the lifestyle that inspired the carefree rural jamborees of yore, in many ways technology has fostered a new generation of fiddle music enthusiasts, who have been able to circumvent mass media and discover the music on their own. Ms. Jephcote, who teaches music at Vineyard elementary schools, has noticed the trend even among her own pupils.

“I have kids that go online to learn songs that you couldn’t get at without great difficulty when I was younger,” she said. “Now you can just punch in ‘old timey fiddle tunes, key of C’ and come up with reams of stuff, and on YouTube you can actually see them play.”

Ms. Jephcote collects most of her material offline but scoffs at the sometimes pretentious claims of fellow fiddlers about the esoteric origins of their tunes.

“Every fiddler wants to make you believe that they learned their songs at the knee of some master,” she said. “A lot of the traditionalists, when they have a tune, will say, oh I got this from so-and-so, who got it from so-and-so, who got it from so-and-so. A lot of that’s BS.”

Ms. Jephcote says that she learned many of her tunes from bandmate Bob Hammond, who in turn learned them from a cousin who had attended fiddle fairs and concerts in the Carolinas, but that she also enjoyed finding others on her own, either by riffling through out-of-print Pennsylvania fife and drum books, for instance, or by inventing them out of whole cloth, like the song Row and Rock Me Darling, which appears on Pokedelic.

“Give me three months’ work and 12 months’ pay,” Ms. Jephcote pleads on the tune. It’s a sentiment any year-round-resident can relate to, but Ms. Jephcote thinks that her music is universal.


“Some people think they can’t move if they don’t know how to dance to the music,” Ms. Jephcote said, “which has always baffled me because you see the little three-year-olds know what to do, they’re movin’ their booties.
“It’s really not complicated.”


The Flying Elbows Fiddle Band’s CD release party for Pokedelic is Sunday, August 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. All are welcome.
- Vineyard Gazette


"Nancy Jephcote and Friends"

Well-loved performer Nancy Jephcote brings her classic original folk material to the Katharine Cornell Theatre along with a band of supporting musicians this Saturday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m.
An Iowa native with a rich, true voice, she appeared on Peter Simon’s The Best of the Vineyard Sound CD, rubbing virtual shoulders with Judy Collins, Richie Havens and Jonathan Edwards.

Making her home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she teaches string instruments in the public schools, Ms. Jephcote is locally appreciated as a singer-songwriter and award-winning ddler.


Paul Thurlow and Brian Weiland are adding their combined skills to the band on guitar, mandolin, acoustic bass, electric bass and percussion, with tasty three-part vocal harmonies also in the mix. Other friends are expected to contribute musically as well.
Ms. Jephcote describes the music this way: “This is genre-bending, folk-imbued music with heart and spirit. The lyrics carry my strength, hope and experience.”

Her solo album, Garland of Rain, produced by Tom Prasada-Rao in Dallas, Tex., which also features her sister Martha Spangler, will be available at the concert. The theatre is located above the Tisbury Town Hall at 51 Spring street in Vineyard Haven.

Admission is $12 at the door. Children under 13 will be admitted free. - Vineyard Gazettte


"Full Hearts On Stage, Misty Eyes Off"

As is the concert’s custom, all children are arranged (miraculously) on the stage, packed in, sitting cross-legged, as the main Suzuki program begins. A few players rise for the most challenging songs. The songs get relatively easier down the play list, with each song seeing more and more players popping up, more bows in sync (or not). Finally always is the Twinkle Theme, variations on the Mozart tune. This time more than 800 strings rang out with it. Little stars, indeed.
- Vineyard Gazette


"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." 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. 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.

The album touches on a recurring theme in Ms. Jephcote's music: natural beauty can be found even in times of difficulty. The album title is taken from the lyrics of the song "Only the Angels." "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. Though her music has a spiritual quality, Ms. Jephcote does not identify with a particular faith. "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.
- MVTimes


"Words and Music by Nancy Jephcote"

Talented and popular Island fiddler Nancy Jephcote is about to expand her repertoire. "Some people don't know me as a singer/ songwriter," she says, talking about the release of her first CD, "Garland of Rain." "I'm not setting out to start a career," the long-time Island musician says. "I made the CD to honor what I was given."

"GARLAND OF RAIN" is an anthology of her career, and she admits to having spent much time and energy over the last two years designing a CD that would completely satisfy her.

In making the CD, Ms. Jephcote traveled to Texas to do the recording with a long-time friend of hers, Tom Prasada- Rao. She describes the recording process as a perfect meeting of the minds. In the recording process, Ms. Jephcote, who was raised in a family of classical musicians, was able to play multiple instruments on a single track, painstakingly polishing the performances until they had arrived at a finished product.The effect is orchestral. "Garland of Rain" is a two-disc set, each 35 to 40 minutes long. The songs sound full and nuanced. Ms. Jepchote has a wonderful voice that slides harmoniously through the songs.

Ms. Jephcote has made her living teaching music, both privately and throughout the Island school system. Thoughtful and considered as she speaks, she lights up when she describes teaching music: "Music is magical in its ability to bypass the brain and reach a person inside. It can really help people's hearts. When teaching, I would think, 'Who is this person, what's important to them, and how can I help them reach it.' Whether or not the music was their real goal, working with music could help them reach it."

With her emphasis on teaching comes a willingness to learn. "We are learning from the young how to be connected in this day and age," she says. "With the realm of computers, the way music is being listened to has changed greatly in just the last couple of years."

The Vineyard community has changed since Ms. Jepchote started playing on the Island, but its appreciation of live music remains. "I miss the sense that the Wintertide brought in the winter," speaking of the former coffeehouse in Vineyard Haven, "but we still have events such as potlucks and fundraisers that capture that energy. There is a certain joy in seeing your friends and neighbors performing. In many places people don't have that."

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about music with such richness, is trying to tack it into a genre.

"Music is freer than genres," says Ms. Jepchote. "They don't ask visual artists, 'What genre is that painting?' But you have to associate. Folk is a vast area, and this falls into it somewhere. There is rock influence, Latin influence... We carefully arranged the order of the tracks. The goal was to make something unique, make it sound like good music."

"I was told that no one listens to whole CD's anymore, that they take the songs they like and put them in an iPod on shuffle," Ms. Jephcote says. "I'm from a different generation. I like sitting down and listening to a CD, so I made my CD to the standards that I have and feel fulfilled for it."

The music has a refined, resilient energy, a fullness that comes with the life experience of its creator and reflects her positivity that has come from hardship. - The Martha's Vineyard Times


Discography

"GARLAND OF RAIN", solo songs produced by Tom Prasada-Rao, mastered by Wolf Productions. Self-distributed.

"POKEDELIC", traditional tunes and songs with The Flying Elbows Fiddle Band, mastered by Gray Larson. Self-distributed.

"Row and Rock me Darlin' ", the Best of the Vineyard Sound, by Peter Simon, Rhino Records.

"Garden Song", the Vineyard Sound, an anthology by Peter Simon, Criterion label.

I also have been a studio musician on a variety of other artists' work including cds of Kenny Lockwood, Ingrid Goff, Mark Lovewell & Molly Conole.

Photos

Bio

To make my solo vocal album, "GARLAND OF RAIN", I flew to Texas to hook up with producer Tom Prasada-Rao, then we both flew to Florida to record my outstanding (and upright) acoustic bass playing sister, Martha Spangler. Other supporting musicians include Tom's partner, Cary Cooper, a well known songwriter in her own right, and former "Ululator" Paul Thurlow who lovingly contributed electric bass & percussion.

A native of Iowa, I was raised in a family of classical musicians before deviating towards traditional styles. I lived in Washington State & London, then settled on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Here I teach string instruments to hundreds of children while maintaining a performing life extending from back in the great old days of the WIntertide Coffeehouse and encompassing several years as host band to the Agricultural Fair's fiddle events with my old time fiddle band, the Flying Elbows, (our CD, POKEDELIC).

I play a slew of local venues, enjoying a range from klezmer & classical to the blues and what have you, which is to say nearly anything. I LOVE to improvise, compose, arrange, and words excite me.