“This is either the most sophisticated simple music or the simplest sophisticated music I’ve ever heard.” That comment, heard after a Jeni & Billy performance, sums up the appeal of the duo’s “New Old Music.” With exquisitely spare accompaniment and performances that are never rushed, Jeni & Billy’s harmonies harken to a lost time and reverberate with a rare honesty, as they inhabit the lives of miners, preachers, ramblers, lovers, and plain-living folks. Their music is quiet enough to be heard and just loud enough to be unforgettable. Sharing the duties of songwriting, arranging, and performing, Jeni & Billy bring to the work very distinct musical backgrounds that both draw from the deep well of Appalachian roots music.
In recent years it’s been practically considered a given that the writing of coal-mining songs is a thing of the past, but lo and behold, along comes an album of new songs related to, or inspired by, the coal-mining lifestyle. Jeni Hankins is the granddaughter of coal miners, so she is well steeped in the tradition. Her mournful vocals compare favorably with other Appalachian old-time folks singers . . . the accompaniment is always very spare, and the performances are never rushed . . . Jewell Ridge Coal is a very worthy addition to a genre that may not be so antiquated after all. – Paul-Emile Comeau – Dirty Linen
Jeni and Billy call their music “New Old Music” on their facebook page and that is just what it is. Jeni and Billy write their own songs, but in the style of traditional country, Appalachian, old-time, country blues, bluegrass and folk music. Jeni was born in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia and traces her vocal style to Virginia Lowe, the blind music minister of the Friendly Chapel Church on Smith Ridge, VA. Billy grew up in Baltimore but spent his weekend nights high atop a hill in the nearby community of Oella — the home of Appalachian migrants who came to the city looking for work in the mills. There, among people much like Jeni’s grandparents, he fell in love with country music.
Steeped in roots of traditional music, Jeni and Billy perform their songs and tell their stories with heartfelt grace and genuine warmth that will reach anyone who hears them.
I first discovered Jeni and Billy online and then got to hear them in person at Folk Alliance, both in Memphis and at FAR-West, the Western Regional Folk Alliance conference. Regular attendees of house concerts know the close connection between musicians and audience members in general. Jeni and Billy exemplify that warmth. When I first met them in person, it felt like we had been friends for a long, long time, instead of just online correspondents.
Please join us for an evening of wonderful, unique music and warm friendship and camaraderie. You’ll be glad you came.
Listen to Monica Gomez’ October 2, 2010 interview with Jeni on her “State of the Arts” show on KTEP-FM.
Suggested artist donation $20
Music starts at 7:00 p.m. Socializing from 6:00 p.m.
Light refreshments provided, BYO wine and/or potluck refreshments to share are welcome.
For more information, please contact Lee at 575-571-9178 or by e-mail at lasalturashouseconcerts (at) gmail.com.