Arts & Entertainment

Folk singer just another link in chain of tradition

International folk singer Joe Jencks considers himself just another link in a chain. The award-winning singer and songwriter is performing tracks from his latest album on Jan. 16 in Pasco. The event is sponsored by the Three Rivers Folklife Society.

"Links In A Chain was sort of a tribute to some of my favorite writers, people and colleagues whose work had deeply influenced me," Jencks told the Herald. "Half of the songs are original compositions of mine and the other half are cover songs. Every concert, I include music by other artists. My career isn't a singularity but something weaved into the fabric of tradition."

The youngest of seven children, Jencks said his family would try to get him to listen to Mary Poppins, but when he was 9 his sister played him a Pete Seeger record recorded live at Carnegie Hall.

"It was one of those moments that I look back on in life that changed everything for me," said Jencks, 37.

Twenty-eight years later, he's come full-circle, performing at Carnegie Hall and standing in the place of his heroes.

"I feel that every songwriter has not just an opportunity, but an obligation," he said. "For me, part of how I choose to make it a community event is by telling stories and sharing music that's often referred to as topical. There's a very clear and present narrative running through the song."

Drawing from his travel experience, Jencks said he is fortunate to be able to see a different view of the world, contrary to what he sees on the news.

"I'm looking forward to beginning to travel a bit more outside of the U.S.," he said.

Jencks usually travels to Canada once a year, but will be extending his tour to Central America, visiting El Salvador and Guatemala.

"I'm really interested in spending time outside a First World nation," he said. "There's something inevitably tainted about our view of the world. We're looking through the lens of our privilege. I'm spending time in places that don't have that privilege. For me, my music is the best way to find opportunities to travel. So I'm working on my Spanish."

After touring for a decade, Jencks admits it's difficult being away from his wife.

"It is tough being away from home as much as I am, but the alternative for me is much more intolerable, which is doing work that does not suit my conscience," he said.

The singer, who now lives in Chicago, said he enjoys visiting Washington and lived in Seattle for eight years.

"I've been on the road for 10 years now and I've launched my career from Washington," he said. "I always love being in Washington. The natural splendor of Washington state just can't be beat, from the Olympic Peninsula over to Spokane and every place in-between. It's nice when you're on the road to have good scenery."

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. at the Community Unitarian Universalist Church at 2819 W. Sylvester St.

Tickets for the show are $11 for general admission and $9 for seniors and students. Three Rivers Folklife Society members get a $3 discount. For ticket locations, go to

For more about Jencks, go to

◗ Bethany Woo: 582-1465;