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MP3 Anne Hills - Beauty Attends: The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley

Acoustic chamber folk-art songs with lyrics taken from the nature diary of Opal Whiteley, a 6-year-old savant, melodies by the incomparable Michael Smith (The Dutchman, Spoonriver), arrangements by Bassist/Producer Scott Petito

16 MP3 Songs
FOLK: Gentle, NEW AGE: Environmental

As a singer, actress, writer, and musician Anne Hills has continuously built a reputation of merit. During her career, she has received numerous honors including, most recently, the 2005 Pennsylvania Partner’s in the Arts Project Stream grant award (for the May 2006 premiere of The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley), the WFMA 2002 Kate Wolf Memorial Award, and The Kerrville Music Foundation’s Outstanding Female Vocalist of the Year Award (1997). Her duet children’s recording, Never Grow Up, released in 1998 with Cindy Mangsen on Flying Fish Records, was chosen for the coveted 1998 Parents’ Choice Award. Anne’s solo and collaborative recordings have appeared regularly on “best of” lists around the country. Her poetic work won her Second Place in the Atlanta Review’s 1999 International Poetry Contest and her work as lyricist with jazz-artist Peter Erskine was featured in a performance by choirs from around the world at a Hilliard Ensemble workshop in Germany. In 2001 she reunited with long-time friend Tom Paxton to release a long-awaited duet recording Under American Skies for Appleseed Recordings, which won a WAMMIE (Washington Area Music Awards) for best traditional folk recording that year. This was soon followed by another collaborative debut, Fourtold (with Michael Smith, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen) in the spring of 2003. That same summer she participated in the final Pete Seeger compilation Seeds, and her lyrical work expanded into the UK folk scene, co-writing two tunes (including the title cut) with Bill Jones Two Year Winter (on Compass Records). Then, in January of 2004 Appleseed Recordings delighted fans with the release of an historic Chicago concert recording (engineered in 1985 by WFMT’s Rich Warren) of the group Best of Friends (Paxton, Gibson & Hills).

Though collaborative work is the keystone in Anne’s career, it is her singing and interpretive gifts that have received the most attention. 1998 saw the release of Anne’s performances on two of the most talked about compilations of the year, placing her voice along side Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, The Roches, Ani DiFranco and The Indigo Girls on: Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (The Songs of Pete Seeger) and What’s That I Hear? (The Songs of Phil Ochs). Other projects include the occasional tour with Priscilla Herdman and Cindy Mangsen (Voices of Winter, 1998, Turning of the Year in 2000), which was featured in the arts section of the January 1998 Sunday New York Times, and her performances with the legendary songwriter Michael Smith. Anne and Michael’s duet recording Paradise Lost and Found was released in the fall of 1999 on Redwing Music label.

A year earlier, in the fall of 1998, Anne released Bittersweet Street also on Redwing Music. It was her ninth release, and the second album to highlight her own compositions. Covering such diverse subjects as the Civil War, alcoholism, a yard’s winter dreams, and exiled refugees, Anne continues to touch the heart with a poet’s evocative palette and a singer’s love of melody.

It’s not surprising that Anne’s songwriting, and the albums featuring her writing (Bittersweet Street and 1995’s Angle of the Light), have continued to win her new and ardent fans. In 1994, her song “Follow That Road” was chosen as the title cut for the 2nd Annual Martha’s Vineyard Songwriter’s Gathering recording on Rounder Records (produced by Christine Lavin).

What a wonderful album! It''s truly magical. I am so taken by Opal, her life, her story and those pictures of her. Michael''s music and your voice are perfect for this project. Congratulations.

Gene Shay
Folk Show Host
WXPN Radio

Review of "Beauty Attends:The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley" WFDU - Ron Olesko

Anne Hills has released a CD called "Beauty Attends: The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley". Michael Smith set the lyrics of Opal Whiteley to music, Scott Petito created the arrangements and produced the CD, and Anne Hills guided the project and delivers a stunning performance. This is a magnificent CD!

If you are unfamilar with Opal Whiteley, let me give you a brief introduction. Whiteley was born at the end of the 19th century and grew up in rural Oregon. She started a diary when she was 6 years old that described her closest companion - nature. She gave names to the flora and fauna using inspiration of classic literature. Her pet was named Lars Porsena of Clusium, the name of a king in ancient Rome. Her dog was Brave Horatius, the roman hearo of Thomas Macaulay''s poem "Horatius at the Bridge". The family draft horse was William Shakespeare. The charm and insight makes for a compelling read. Her love of nature and the wonders it holds was inspirational. In 1920, when Whiteley was 23, the Atlantic Monthly began serializing the diary and eventually published a best selling book.

As soon as the book became a best seller, the work was questioned. Critics felt that the writing was not that of a six year old and raised questions that it was a con run by Whiteley and Atlantic Monthly. In the book Whiteley said that she was an orphaned French princess, and that statement became an issue. Quickly the book was out of print, and Whiteley forgotten. She went to India and Europe to try to prove her claims, and ended up in England. She was eventually diagnosed as mentally ill and spent the remaining 50 years of her life in an institution. She passed away in 1992 at the age of 95.

A fascinating story. Regardless of the "truth" behind the creation of the book, the words are compelling and provoking. In recent years there has been renewed interest in Whiteley, and this CD will hopefully resurrect interest in her works.

Anne Hills is one of the finest interpreters of song performing today. I can''t think of anyone else who would have done justice to this work. The arrangements are beautifully done, allowing the listener to absorb the message and be drawn back to a special time and place. This is a work of art!!

I did a further review on my website with additional background information and photos - https://www.tradebit.com

Anne Hills can be reached at her site -

I highly recommend this CD to anyone interested in Americana and/or great music!

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