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Anne Hills and Michael Smith
January 1, 2021-
January 15, 2021
From the Archives:
Anne Hills is one of the most beloved voices of the contemporary folk music scene, receiving awards and recognition for her live performances, her unique solo and collaborative recording projects, and her overall artistry and benefit work. Her song “Follow That Road” was the title cut of the Martha’s Vineyard Songwriter Retreat and has been a certified folk classic since the late 1990s. Whether she is singing her own songs, the words of six-year-old Opal Whiteley, or her song settings of the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley; accompanied with her guitar, banjo, or simply a Tibetan bell, she puts her whole heart and soul into the moment. You won’t want to miss a chance to hear her songs and stories in person. She tours extensively, winning over audiences with her warm, lively and humorous performances. (And if you love her writing, be sure to check out her “Haiku a Day” shared via her Facebook page!) The AllMusic Guide says, “A stunning soprano tone has made Anne Hills one of contemporary music’s premiere vocalists … Her knack for writing heartfelt songs [has] brought her to the upper echelon of her craft.” and Tom Paxton says, “Anne Hills is such an exquisite singer that it’s understandable that people might be swept up in the pure beauty of her voice and thereby overlook her writing. That would be a mistake. For me, Anne’s writing, in songs like ‘Follow That Road’ and many others, is as direct, melodic and deep as any work being done today. She is quite simply one of my absolute favorite songwriters.”
Michael Smith, the lyricist, composer and performer of renown, was a voracious reader and never at a loss for material. As early as age 16, when he set the words that appeared on the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson, Michael was adapting and setting literature, children’s stories, and poetry to music.
Michael’s songs set poems by F. Garcia Lorca (Five in the Afternoon), Wallace Stevens (Blue Guitar), Chilean poets Gabriela Mistral (Swallow) and Pablo Neruda, as well as Irish poetry (Songs of the Kerry Madwoman), set in a chamber opera, with poems by Patricia Monaghan, and Chinese Tang Dynasty poets (Painted Horse).
Passages from Robert Cole’s “The Spiritual Lives of Children” were transformed in We Become Birds. The words of essayist Ann Carson appear in a surprising way in Michael’s song Seurat. Michael’s original work was featured at the Poetry Foundation: And the Poet Sang, (2013) with Jamie O’Reilly and Peter Swenson, and in Brecht’s Letters with Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble members (2014). His most recent recording is of songs inspired by Melville’s Moby Dick.
Michael Peter Smith was featured among a list of luminaries in Paul Zollo’s 2016 book: More Songwriters on Songwriting (DaCapo Press). In 2018, he released Songwriting, a CD recording that is part master class, part memoir. Recorded at WFMT Studio in Chicago. Songwriting was featured on the music program Sweet Folk Chicago. (An excerpt can be heard at Jamie’s site.)
Michael’s rich life included touring in North America for over five decades. His songs have been recorded by artists the world over. His song The Dutchman is considered a classic in the folk lexicon.
This self-taught musician was also an award-winning composer. As a beloved master in the folk music scene, Michael always delivered the goods. Time and again, audiences reported an evening with him was an unforgettable appearance. As a soloist, Michael was a program highlight at musical venues and and at folk festivals from Kerrville, Texas to Shawano, WI and Toronto, CA. Michael’s East Coast tours, as both a solo artist, and in performance with Anne Hills, have brought him to folk venues and concert halls from Princeton, NJ to Cambridge, MA.