Not everyone realizes a fiddle is the same as a violin. It's how the instrument is being played that determines what it's called. Local violin diva Ida Jo says people ask her about the difference all the time. The thing is, it's easier to show the answer than to tell it.
Her new song "Colors" takes a bit from both worlds -- classical violin technique and Americana fiddling tradition -- to prove just how much her instrument can do. At one moment, she's weaving in and out of a scale at lightning speed, and at others, she's "chopping," using her bow as a percussion instrument by tapping it on the violin's body. You can tell she's a classically trained Suzuki student, but she's also a master of Texas-style fiddling, Finnish folk fiddling and all sorts of other string-playing wonders.
But Ida's music isn't just about her trusty fiddle: She can do something that singer and fiddler extraordinaire Alison Krauss doesn't even attempt. She sings while playing her instrument. And this isn't just a bit of humming or a quick la-la-la.
In "Colors," her haunting alto paints a picture of a mother telling her child to stand tall in the face of oppression. "This song came from a class I took at UW-Madison that discussed racism in U.S. popular culture," Ida says. "During this class, when I couldn't pay attention any longer, I'd work on the song in my head."
I'm not sure how she fared on her exam, but this song earns an A, and what an effort. Its combination of a stark and simple vocal and complicated instrumental licks makes it a head-turner at her live shows and a highlight of her new album, Providence.
"The hook it pretty virtuosic, but the repetitive bass line give it a trance feel," Ida says.
She also says this track is a good example of what to expect from Providence. "At times, it's dark and dramatic, but at other points light and quirky. 'Colors finds some middle ground,'" she says.
Listen to an mp3 of "Colors" in the related files at right. More music by Ida Jo is available on her website, and information about upcoming shows is available on her Facebook page. Listen to selections from Providence and other treats when she performs at the High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, December 15.
MadTracks highlights songs performed by local musicians. All content is provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.