"A superb songsmith." --Shawna Carol, Ladyslipper recording artist and author of "The Way of Song."

"Bare Bones showcases Kessler's impressive fingerstyle guitar technique,
rich vocals and ability to pen lyrics that should resonate with both locals and fans around the country."

--Jim Catalano, The Ithaca Journal

"Ithaca singer-songwriter Jody Kessler's sound is an engaging blend of folk and pop, acoustic and electric. She's a fine guitarist, an excellent singer with a warm, clear voice that's at once precise and soulful, and a standout writer with a true gift for melody and a way with a tale. Recommended."

--Richard Middleton, Sing Out! Magazine

"The Inspired and Inspiring Callings of Jody Kessler"
By Molly A. Daniels-Ramanujan
The Epoch Times
August 12 2009

Jody Kessler has spent her life cultivating two equally powerful vocations. She is a successful folk musician and an ordained interfaith minister. The combination of her two vocations nourishes both. Jody’s voice touches me like rain over parched earth.

Hers has not been an easy journey. There were many twists and counterturns. She hung out with folk musicians in Central Park, learned to play the guitar and sing in the oral tradition, lived on the edge (trying out psychedelic drugs), joined the Guitar Study Center, practiced yoga, became a school teacher, lived through failed relationships, and finally found a measure of harmony when her search for spiritual meaning and her music came together.

As singer-song writer, Kessler has four collections of songs: Another Day of Loving, Leap of Faith, No Solid Ground, and Bare Bones—which use images and stories from life. But her forthcoming disk—which “has devotional chanting inspired by Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Arabic chants from many different faiths and cultural traditions”—brings together the folk singer and ordained minister.

As in the case of most artists, the fire of her creativity comes from the crucible of life. Her best songs are infused with her mystical yearning to reach God, who is our home — from whence we came, and whither we shall return. This yearning for the divine gives her singing voice a resonance that is all her own.

The lyrics offer no certainties; they express a longing to find transcendence above and beyond a quotidian existence.
All her life, Kessler has felt the gaping dark center in life. An artist’s work, if it is any good, comes out of a perceived incompleteness.

Kessler was born in New York to a non-observant Jewish family, where no one had siblings. Each was an only child born to parents, similarly raised with no sense of an extended family. Added to that, there was no talk of religion. Jody was gnawed by a hunger for “a community, a tribe, a tradition.”
At folk venues, and at Saturday concerts in different churches and spiritual centers, where she leads the service as a guest minister, audiences find a connection to the yearning in her voice.

Her song titled “The Golden Ring,” from the CD No Solid Ground, expresses her lifelong search. The song tells it simply: Her grandfather took her to a carousel when she was 6, and while she was going round and round, he said, “Jody, look up, and each time your horse comes round to this spot, reach your arms out, stretch, and try to get a hold of the golden ring.” If she were to reach the ring, she would earn a free ride. She tried but could not catch the shining ring. The song goes on to say, “So close and yet so far.”

The ring that she tried to reach is for Jody emblematical of her life’s search. It stands for the wedding ring and the mystical oneness with God. “A thin veil,” she says, “keeps me separate from God.”

However “a moment of stillness brings a glimmer of the truth that I have always held the golden ring. So there’s a sense of knowing that comes through: Underneath all that searching and yearning, the ‘golden ring’ of God’s loving presence has been with me all along. What my life is about now is remembering the truth, and helping others remember that as well.”

Click on the graphic below to open this Ithaca (NY) Press & Sun Bulletin article as a large image in a new page, or here to download it as a PDF.

Click on the graphic below to open this Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun Bulletin article as a large image in a new page, or here to download it as a PDF.

Ithaca local Jody Kessler is making her second appearance at MuseFest this year. Hailing from NYC, she started her career as a teacher but in 1995 left that work to pursue music. She performs folk music that serves as sonic comfort food. Her style, both musical and lyrical, is right at the crossroads of the more vital branches of contemporary folk music--weaving together threads of inspiration from a variety of traditional musical cultures with personal, insightful poetry. Her songs frequently assume the perspective of the spiritual traveler, inviting the listener to come along with her on the journey. The guitar and vocals are crystalline reminding one of the best of the 1960's folk movement. Her sound and message come together to create an aural space that is truly meditative and conducive to community empathy which is appropriate as she is an ordained interfaith minister. Her music is inspirational and refreshingly honest. Performing solo at MuseFest will provide audiences with a stripped down taste of the songs that have come out of her studio work.

Since 1996 Jody has released four albums, most recently Bare Bones in 2003. This year will bring a few new tracks which will be available for download on her website, jodykessler.com. She performs in a variety of venues ranging from festivals with a few thousand people in the crowd to intimate living room concerts.

--Erin Leidy, Muse Magazine, 2006

From Random Harvest, Spencer, NY
October 25, 2000
by Sarah Kain

"...Kessler, an Ithaca-based, full-time performing artist, focuses primarily on social issues, spirituality, and personal relationships in No Solid Ground, her third album in the past five years. Recorded in Newfield's Electric Wilburland Studio, No Solid Ground also marks the third title produced under her own label, In The Moment Productions.

With this latest CD, Kessler melds her acoustic guitar with a diverse mix of the electric guitar, bass, drums, piano, organ, clarinet, and cello from area musicians such as Rich DePaolo, Bill King, Charlie Shew, Peter Dodge, Brian Earle, Chris White, and Annie and Marie Burns. The result claims musical kinship with the mellow, soothing intonations of Tracy Chapman and James Taylor, as opposed to the harder, rock-infused chords of fellow folk artist Ani DiFranco - although Kessler cites all three as influences. Her gentle vocals recall Taylor especially, but her lyrics and her guitar work are assuredly her own.

Like many folk artists, Kessler's strength lies in her ability to tell stories both lyrically and musically. The linear structure and narrative element to her lyrics works easily with unassuming melodies she composed, and every track on the album is friendly and accessible. No matter her opinions, Kessler never alienates listeners; even when her lyrics lightly mock her detractors and critics.

In the song "Hocus Pocus," the artist adopts a playful tone and mimics the stern advice of conservative people overly concerned with her choice of career: "The sixties are over, folk music is dead," she sings, "So kick off those Birkenstocks/and get a job instead/get a job instead."

Her sense of humor, introspection, love of life, and warm empathy for others is fully evident on No Solid Ground. She sings about cancer victims and same-sex marriage, asserting their stories and memorializing their pain and persistent, enduring spirits in the face of adversity. She sings about her own painful and positive relationships, and acknowledges the inspiration she gains from almost everything around her.

"But now I don't regret or blame," she sings in "The Way Things Are." "I just keep moving on/and it gives me more grist for the mill/and verses for these songs."

From Centre Daily Times, State College, PA
November 27, 1998
by Andy Adelewitz

"Jody Kessler's music simply rises above the world and tells us how things ought to be.

Kessler, a singer-songwriter from Ithaca, NY, is an adept guitarist, having received musical instruction from such masters as Martin Simpson and Paul Simon. But her true essence is her honest, straightforward and often downright empathic lyrics. Addressing issues from love and spirituality to sexual violence, Kessler tells it sometimes like it is, and sometimes like it ought to be.

She released her second album, Leap of Faith this summer. Kessler's pristine voice and acoustic guitar are behind the bulk of the music, with sparse accompaniment from some of Ithaca's premier musicians.

Kessler's songs deal with profound issues that affect every person, giving her an infallible appeal and strong personality. "Dominoes" deals with broken relationships and gossip and the fear that comes with not knowing where love will lead. In "My Darling, My Only," Kessler expresses the sadness and confusion of a mother whose child and new husband do not get along.

"Walk Without Fear" was written at the request of a rape crisis center and calls for an end to sexual violence and the silence regarding it. She wrote the especially touching "A Path to the Divine" as a marriage proposal for her husband.

The underlying theme on much of Leap of Faith, however, is announced in the album's title. Kessler's faith and spirituality and those of the rest of the world are all fair game for song fodder. "As Long As We Believed" celebrates all spiritual life that's true and genuine. In "Homesick," Kessler finds herself "homesick for God," looking back at her life and the lost purity of spirituality.

...Despite her musical style, Kessler is anything but behind the times, and she is an artist one can't help but connect with, comprehend and respect.

From The Ithaca Times
October 8, 1998
by Gene Ira Katz

A beautiful, distinctive voice, gentle acoustic melodies complemented by the soft hand of a gifted producer, and accompanying musicians possessed of great skill. These are all present in Jody Kessler's second CD, A Leap of Faith. But moreover, we are witnessing here the growth of Jody the Poet, one brave enough to reflect the trials and lessons of her life with delicacy and grace.

Never far from the awareness of God's role in the scheme of things, Kessler explores some of the more difficult features dotting the human landscape: lingering conflicts, troubled times foretold, taking a chance and choosing love amidst the march of lovers breaking apart / like dominoes falling down, or the eternal tearing between step-child and step-parent: how can I choose between my lover and my child / when one despises the other.

In "Walk Without Fear," Kessler takes on the problem of rape with a song commissioned to educate young people about sexual violence. With admirable honesty and courage, Kessler demonstrates that her excellent first CD, Another Day of Loving, was just the beginning, and that this mature artist is still developing her craft, and doing it quite well. Much applause too for producer Rich DePaolo who adds another fine example to his growing body of work. The Burns Sisters join for vocal harmonies on several selections, and some of this town's very best players help to make this another of Ithaca's very best recordings.

"There's sensitivity, humor, and a deep awareness of a broad variety of human needs... Jody's skill in weaving poetic story with just the right musical line surely puts her in company with the best."
-Folkstuff Newsletter, Ithaca, NY
"It was the lyrics that got to me -powerpacked lyrics that came straight from the gut of a woman who's been on a healing path and knows both the rocky and smooth sides of the road."
-Spiral Magazine, Albany, NY
"Filled with potent imagery and thought-provoking spirit, excellent musicianship and pristine vocals, Another Day of Loving takes its place among the best albums ever produced in the Finger Lakes and should go a long way to establish Jody Kessler as one of the most recognized and acclaimed talents in the region."
-Ithaca Times, Ithaca, NY
Click here to listen to tracks from each of Jody's albums

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