My musical tastes may not be the most diverse in the world. I’m not the kind of gal who listens to a “little bit of everything.” My favorite band is Fleetwood Mac, and I blame Stevie Nicks for my playlists occasionally dipping into folksy.
Last week, Spotify was playing as I did my daily newspaper writing. And when it concluded my playlist, the music service randomly chose something else it thought I’d like. It started playing a tune called “Witch’s Rune” by an artist named S.J. Tucker.
My immediate reaction when unfamiliar music started playing was to start a different playlist. But something stopped me, some magical force. So I gave the song 10 seconds… and then 20 seconds. Finally, I settled back in my seat and continued listening. My head was bobbing along about a minute or two in.
When “Witch’s Rune” stopped playing, I didn’t hesitate to let Spotify play more of Tucker’s music, moving on to a song called “Cheshire Kitten (We’re All Mad Here),” which highlighted that this conjurer of music could pick a guitar with the best of them. And no force in the verse can stop my leg from thumping against the legs of my purple computer chair as I keep time with her tunes.
I hopped on Twitter to express my joy at discovering Tucker’s music, and to my surprise, she tweeted me back. I said I’d like to see her in concert, and Tucker informed me she was taking part in an online concert the following Saturday.
That was the first surprise. The second? She actually lives in Arkansas! Right down in Perry. Well, obviously I was going to support a local musician. With the pandemic devastating the live music industry, I happily made a donation to watch the concert.
I eventually told Tucker my favorite song of hers was “Ravens in the Library,” and she vowed to add it to her concert playlist! Talk about fan dedication.
So when the night of the concert rolled around, I set up my iPad to tune in to the Hamilton Pagan Harvest Festival, at which Tucker was a guest musician, along with talented souls like Heather Dale and Sharon Knight.
Due to the reality of rural Arkansas internet, Tucker prerecorded her concert. That way, there was no risk of her live feed dropping out during the show. And this offered another advantage. It allowed Tucker to change instruments, going from her drum to guitar, along with bits of her witchy wardrobe.
The biggest surprise of the show came when she pulled a painted bird skull out of her bra. I chuckled a bit when she said, “I know I promised this wasn’t going to be that kind of show, but…” She was showing off the beautiful skulls she paints and offers for decoration.
And not long after, she fulfilled her promise to play “Ravens in the Library,” even giving me a shoutout before starting the song. I smiled and told my wife about the shoutout not long after, and she asked if it was the highlight of my night. Of course, I answered in the affirmative.
The recorded version of the song has some bird sound effects in it, and she closed the song in her video by looking directly at the camera and making her own “CAW” noise. I loved it. Great way to finish off a magical and lively performance.
I went to bed that night singing, “My friend bids me come and see the ravens in the library.” And I woke up the next morning and wandered around the apartment screaming, “I am the fire bird!”
Darn music got hold on my soul. That’s how you know sorcery was involved in crafting it.
Words & Music
With S.J. Tucker & Author Catherynne M. Valente
WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 1
WHERE — onlineconcertthing.com
COST — $10
INFO — sjtucker.com