"I think Celeste has put out a record that could put her up there with Mary Black or Tish Hinojosa's best work."
"This North Dakota native has an astounding voice..."
Celeste is an album of extraordinary beauty, subtlety and richness, combining Celeste's honest and heartfelt rural roots and singer/songwriter sensibility with rhythmic, full-band arrangements (backed by members of the Colorado-based Subdudes, drummer/percussionist Steve Amdee and songwriter/accordionist John Magnie, who contributed four songs to the album). Her crystalline voice and the album's complex and rewarding repertoire make Celeste the kind of album that makes you want to sit down and listen to every word, while the musical ingredients create and sustain a mood for all seasons.
"I've never had the luxury of having so much time to make an album," enthuses Celeste about her new self-titled label debut for Los Angeles-based independent Blix Street Records. After seven years of making independent records on tight time schedules and stringent budgets, Celeste finally had the opportunity-the luxury, really-of spending time concentrating on the songs and her singing rather than peripheral concerns.
The result is an album of extraordinary beauty, subtlety and richness. The record combines Celeste's honest and heartfelt rural roots and singer/songwriter sensibility with rhythmic, full-band arrangements. Her crystalline voice and the album's complex and rewarding repertoire make CELESTE the singer/songwriter's most accomplished and satisfying work yet.
Celeste Krenz was born and raised in North Dakota. She started writing songs at 15 and continued writing through college (with time off travelling around the country as a full time musician). After returning and earning a marketing degree from the University of North Dakota, Celeste moved to Denver in 1990 where, before long, she developed a loyal following in a community that appreciated the honesty and warmth of her songs and voice.
Celeste recorded four independent albums between 1993 and 1998, the last of which reached #11 on music trade magazine GAVIN's Americana radio airplay chart. Blix Street Records, a specialty label that has built its reputation distributing some of the finest Celtic, folk and world music on the market, signed Celeste in 1999, recognizing her appeal to the same audience that had reacted strongly to other Blix Street artists, including Irish vocalist Mary Black, Scotland's Dougie MacLean and the late Eva Cassidy. Using some of the songs from the unreleased last independent project as the nucleus, Celeste went back into the studio to record what has become the CELESTE album, an album that is poised to introduce her to a national audience for the first time.
Denver has proved a good home for Celeste to hone her craft. The singer has a pure, sweet voice, as smooth as the great American plains, and CELESTE retains the simple beauty that her prior indie records so gracefully achieved. But the new band-oriented approach and Celeste's new-found love of rhythm is the product of a country girl ready for the big city.
"I love the sounds of the city," says Celeste, who grew up on a ranch. "To me, urban and rural sounds are like different kinds of music with their own rhythm, and I find both artistically stimulating."
Songs like "Break the Cup," Noel Brazil's "Don't Send Me Anymore Love" and the driving rhythm of "It All Comes Back" reflect a more cosmopolitan energy. Celeste notes: "As I've worked with more and more creative musicians (CELESTE features backing by members of the Colorado-based Subdudes, drummer/percussionist Steve Amedee and songwriter/ accordionist John Magnie, who contributed four songs to the album), I have become more aware of beats and rhythms where before I focused almost entirely on lyrics. I love the intensity of Celtic and Latin rhythms."
Although CELESTE is the kind of album that makes you want to sit down and listen to every word, the musical ingredients create and sustain a mood that also allows it to be enjoyed as background music. Much of Celeste's work is still marked by very intimate songs that touch the spirit, like the chilling "In The Arms Of The Moon" and "I Had A Dream About You," both of which ruminate about the hard realities of death--the first a family friend and the latter her 16-year-old sister when Celeste was 11 years old.
How difficult is it to write songs about such closely-held emotions? "In a strange way, I think they're the easiest ones to write," Celeste answers surprisingly. "You can hardly keep them in, but they're the hardest ones to perform. There are times when I just don't. In the years following Charmaine's death, my biggest fear was that I would forget what she was like. I dealt with it partially through my dreams and finally in writing a strictly personal song that I hoped would help me remember her. I was surprised that after hearing it, Bob (Tyler, her producer/co-writer/husband) was so insistent that it go on this album."
Celeste is right to be careful with such songs. As she points out, "there's a tendency, I think, to subject audiences to more than they want to know about the writer's personal life. That is not always a good idea. Although the song about my sister is very personal, it has a universal message."
That serves as an apt description of CELESTE. "All our other albums were rehearsals for this one," she says. "I think it's the best thing we've done so far."