A mother of four with steadfast musical ambitions, Virginia-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Karen Jonas finds inventive ways to tell her story on forthcoming album Butter, out June 1. She even turns to ancient literary inspiration in the form of "Oh Icarus," an allegory about a Greek god wiped out by his own hubris.
Horns and other ancillary instruments make it sound like a country guitarist starts playing in unison with Cajun musicians. This melting pot sets the proper cinematic pace for a detailed update to an ancient myth.
"We asked Fredericksburg musician Zack Smith to record a trumpet part on this song," Jonas says. "It was the first song on the album with trumpet, and we were so blown away by the sound. He had some awesome ideas that fit in with (band mate Tim Bray's) guitar parts perfectly. It came together really smoothly, and we decided to add horns to a few other songs on the album. "
As for why she chose to revisit the story of Icarus, Jonas sees him as a cautionary tale about more than just aiming too low or overshooting your limits.
"He is judged harshly, and the moral is that we shouldn't be so bold," she says. "I began to think about the way we use other people's failures to limit our own goals. I wrote the song from the perspective of judgment, but the underlying message is that we should support each other and believe in ourselves. I want to aim for the sky, even though Icarus failed."
Although the song's themes reflect her life, Jonas tells the story with an air of light-heartedness. "I always smile when I sing, '"Wasted resources," he thought on his way down/I'd be better off if I built a boat/Be grateful for the ground'," she says. "It's supposed to be a bit of a sideways joke, because Icarus drowns in the sea when his wings melt. Sometimes we simplify the answers to other people's complicated problems."