Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sister's TV

I had a nice surprise today because my Mom drove me to UNC Greensboro to see a physical theater piece directed by my sister, Sarah Hankins - Actor, Director, & Teacher​. One of the characters was a Television and Sarah let me wear the TV she made all around campus after the show.
Sisters are cool like that. Hugs, sister!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Uncle Willard

First thing in the morning on Sunday, I discovered that my college mentor, Bob Manning, who had been a second father to me while I was at college and beyond, went on up to that picnic much too soon. I could never get away from calling him Dr Manning even when I lived with his family, so he found a way around that by having me call him Uncle Willard – a name he made up on the spot.

He understood me so very well and knew how much I loved to make things up, so he would often write me stories about outlandish characters and I would respond in kind. We kept up this ever-changing fictional cast of characters in fits and starts for years ever since graduation. For the last few years, he liked to start his letters to me with: “Dear Country and Western Legend” which made me smile every single time.

I am glad for all of the little things that will remind me of him like baseball cards, star maps, spaghetti, the strap button he put on my guitar, the Grinch (he had a whole Grinch costume), and wood shavings. If you love some one, call them or write them, right now. I wish I could hear his voice and hug him just one more time.

I've just written a song for Uncle Willard, so those are some fresh lyrics behind the photo of his grandfather who entered the coal mines around Pittsburgh at a tender age, but got out and became the mayor of Hayes, Pennsylvania. Bob Manning --  Physicist, Astronomer, Woodworker, Humorist, Baseball card collector, mentor, and friend -- you live on in the hearts and minds of your students.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

With Anne Hills for a song!

Because we tour so much, we often miss out on seeing our favorite performers in concert, so imagine my delight when I discovered that one of my very favorite performers was going to be in Chicago at the same time as us. I saw Anne Hills perform at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival when I was finishing up my masters degree at Bread Loaf School of English in Vermont. At one point, she picked up a Tibetan singing bell, made a tone with it, and sang. Witnessing this freed me to begin performing much sooner than I would have otherwise. I had been a trombonist for 13 years and had only recently picked up stringed instruments. I was working on my finger callouses and fretting over the F chord on guitar (still not my favorite). But Anne showed me that what was most important was a stellar song and a true voice. Just those two magic ingredients could transform an audience. So, I jumped in, and here I am. 

I am lucky that some of Anne’s fans are Jeni & Billy fans, too, so during the break, they asked if Anne and I would sing a song together. So, on Sunday, I got to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with my musical mentor which was a dream come true! Thank you, Anne! You continue to inspire me with your kind spirit and your honest music.

Fashionable Ferndale

This Friday, we play our first concert in the Detroit area – The Fabulous Fashionable Ferndale House Concert hosted by Steve Deasy. Steve is a union brother of ours and swell writer in his own right. He’ll be opening up the show with a few of his remarkable songs which we are eager to hear! Concert at 7:30. Space is limited, so contact Steve at stevedeasy@hotmail.com to make a reservation and for directions.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The snow in Chicago

Heading through a Chicago snowstorm to do a school program. The show must go on!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Used to be a train

"There used to be a train
that hauled this coal away
back when John L. Lewis
paved the miner's way."
-- "Local 6167" by Jeni Hankins

Report from Chicago, IL: What a thing to see this coal train rolling by in Downers Grove right after seeing a passenger train drop off about a hundred people who had finished their working day in the city. Took me back to a time in this country which I never knew in my lifetime where trains were the great movers of people and things and nearly everything depended on their timetable.

If it's a good time of night for you or you have a device to record off the internet, you can hear us streaming tonight on WFMT Folkstage from 8pm Central Time 'til 9. Let us know if you are listening. If I can get away with it and they have signal in the building, I'll read a message or two on the air. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Singing up prayers

Jeni & Billy are singing up prayers tonight for miners, hobos, beauty queens, the broken-hearted, the kind-hearted, the hard-hearted, for you, for us, for this whole mixed up crazy beautiful world. Two Way Street, Downers Grove (Chicago), IL, Doors 7:30, Concert 8:15, $7 at the door. Making our way right this minute from the heartland of America in Indiana.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mastering Luck

Big Picnic Day in Nashville for Jeni & Billy! Mastering our new live CD, "Jeni & Billy - Live from LA with The Big Picnic Band." Sounding wild with energy and magical moments of musical collaboration!!! We'll be taking it with us to Britain at the end of April. If you are in the USA or Canada and would like a copy before you catch us on tour again, send $17.50 (USA fans) or $24.50 (Canadian fans, sorry, horrible postage costs) to jeniandbilly@gmail.com via PayPal. If you'd rather send a check, message me. CDs will go out in late April. UK fans, we'll have them at all shows! 

Mixing, Mastering, & Printing CDs is a crazy expensive undertaking, so pre-orders are always a happy happy thing for us!

First ever band versions of three of these Jeni & Billy favorites, and one of the first songs I wrote, The Hoot Owl, with Craig Eastman on an eerie gourd violin (a Rebec) that takes you right into the Appalachian mountains. Plus live versions of six songs from Picnic in the Sky. I love live CDs. They are always my favorite CDs of my favorite artists like Joni Mitchell's Miles of Aisles and Buena Vista Social Club. This live recording has crazy energy, everyone! We all brought our very best creative selves to this night and it's Jeni & Billy like you've never heard us before. 

The Hoot Owl
Chicken Ridge
McHenry Street
Picnic in the Sky
Reckoning Day
The Robin & the Banjo
The Mill Hurries On
The Mystery of You & Me
If I Ever Get $10
Sweet Song Coming Round

Dillon O'Brian on Piano, Organ, Accordion & Guitar
Craig Eastman on Violin, Low Violin, Rebec, Mandolin & Lap Steel
Dave Way on Bass
Denny Weston, Jr on Percussion including the famous Shovel & Rake
Billy Kemp on Vocals, Guitar, Banjo & Harmonica 
Jeni Hankins on Vocals, Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin & Flatfoot

Mixed by Dave Way

Monday, March 16, 2015

Billy making a lovely guitar sound

Billy in OGM studios with Charlie Chadwick & Laurie McClain! Thanks to sweet Wendysue for making us part of her Wish day!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day in Nashville

We celebrated Pi Day at Oz Arts in Nashville. Origami Spheres, Pi inspired art, a panel discussion with one of my performers of all time, Laurie Anderson, & the debut of a symphony by Roy Wooten. All in all a very swell time!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tiny Dancer, me back in the 80's

From tap dance to flatfoot dance. I still have one of those long gloves in my bureau drawer :) Happy Day, everyone!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Jeni Headquarters

Here’s where a lot of Jeni & Billy songwriting, booking, and correspondence happens. This is Jeni Headquarters. Those little notebooks are one of my favorite things in life. And those particular ones are full of original Jeni & Billy song lyrics as well as things like grocery lists, doodles, and lists of books I want to read. That Fuller brush man letter open was a gift from my Mom. The little blue stapler came from when I lived in Paris for a year and couldn’t make do without office/school supplies. Billy plays guitar and holds back the scrap paper. That’s my working Corona typewriter. Look out Tom Hanks.

Headed up Chicago-way! Share the Jeni & Billy LOVE!

Hey! Did you know that we are headed out on a mini-tour next week to Chicago, Detroit, and Bloomington (IN). Please spread the word to your friends and family for ultimate Jeni & Billy musical joy and happiness!

Two Way Street Coffee House on Friday, March 20.
Folkstage on Saturday, March 21.

Steve Deasy​ is hosting us for a Fabulous Fashionable Ferndale house concert in Detroit for us on Friday, March 27.

Then the Michael Kelsey​ Birthday Bash for WFHB Radio, Bloomington, is on Sunday, March 29.

Details: www.jeniandbilly.com/tour/

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The right to read

Honoring the women who have fought for the rights of all people,  regardless of gender and class, to read. Honoring women, including my own mother, who have taught children to read. And honoring Mawmaw Margie who said, "Lord, girl, the only kind of person worth being is one of a kind." 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Crazy #6 on UNKOVR everyone! THANK YOU!


Not bad for an obscure folk duo and a bunch of very devoted fans.

Here’s a wish for you: I wish you all could go with us to Mawmaw’s right now. We would have homemade biscuits with butter and honey and then go over to the church and have a big ole sing! And then we’d get in our cars and go down Chicken Ridge together across the Dismal River into Jewell Valley where we would have our pictures made at the old scale house. Then we’d go over to Richlands and see my Aunt Princess for some homemade potato bread and dinner. And at night we’d go back up on Smith Ridge where there are no lights on the road and watch the stars and see the space station zoom overhead. And in the morning, we’d all walk down to our family cabin and read from the newspapers on the wall to each other. Then we’d sing as we walked on home.

Let’s have a huge hug when we see each other next time. OK? Or, if you’re not a hugger, let’s do a high five. OK?

You are THE BEST. LOVE and HAPPINESS all day again.

If you missed all of the excitement because you were on an internet break, just mosey on down to the previous posts or follow this link to VOTE for us (under our photo to the left, those little square boxes). http://unkovr.com/artist/jeni-billy/

#8 in 12 hours! Yes!

WOW EVERYONE! I said that we’d LOVE to get to #10 on Unkovr Musicand we got to #8. IN 12 HOURS. Not because it’s easy to do that, it’s actually crazy. But YOU MADE THAT HAPPEN. What???!!!!!! WAY to GO! Thank you SO MUCH for VOTING and SHARING smile emoticon None of it would have happened without you! And you signed up and made COMMENTS, too – 28 of them! If you go to anyone else’s page and look, that is an extraordinary number of comments! It was an extraordinary amount of everything.
If you’d like to roll up your sleeves and help us MOVE HIGHER on the UNKOVR rankings (should we try for #%5?), then there are a couple of MORE WAYS TO VOTE. You can click on the title of any of our songs to the righthand side on our main page. That will take you to a new screen. There you will see a photo and a player button for that song. Under the photo, there are little square boxes where you can VOTE. Then you can click on the other song titles in that same window and vote for those. If you feel like listening and enjoying, playing the songs is also considered an interaction smile emoticon
You can also JOIN UNKOVR for FREE and make us a FAVORITE and leave a COMMENT. This helps a lot!
THIS UNKOVR thing MATTERS because it’s great way to show support for our music and get the word out about Jeni & Billy. It’s like you are putting up posters all around town about something you love and the town just happens to be cyberspace . . . pretty big town! And it didn’t even involve a staple gun or duct tape. Neat.
LOVE TO YOU ALL and thank you for being part of the story of Jeni & Billy. We are honored to be part of your story through our music. Off to work on the new song we wrote yesterday!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jeni & Billy are Featured Artists on UNKOVR today!

Normally, I would be grumpy about waking up at 4:30 am, but I wrote a new song and there’s a bunny rabbit being irresistibly picturesque in the fresh snow in our yard. Plus, this wonderful thing happened. We woke up to find that we’ve been FEATURED ON Unkovr Music​ as the ARTISTS OF THE DAY! We would be so GLAD and 
GRATEFUL if you would just simply CLICK over there and VOTE for us. You don’t even have to sign up! 

This is actually a big deal for a ROOTS duo . . . So GIVE ROOTS MUSIC a BOOST by VOTING and SHARING. I don’t think we get a prize like a homemade pie on account of the voting, but even if we get 100 votes, we’ll go WAY up on the unkovr site! How can we ever do that? If you SHARE this and VOTE, it just might happen or it will be fun trying. You all did great with sharing that whole Grammy chance that happened, so let’s do it again!

If you LEAVE A COMMENT or you share from the website, that makes our ranking go up up up! And then more people will find out about Jeni & Billy and we’ll be able to take our fans wherever we go, and start a utopian community on Jewell Ridge . . . wait a minute. That may be sleep deprivation talking :) But more people will find out about our music and that is GOOD.

Are you snowbound today and have you eaten all of the coffee cake you baked yesterday? Then make SHARING this post your sitting-around-in-pajamas-watching Silver Linings Playbook on Netflix project today. Am I in my pajamas? Yes, that’s what’s great about being a songwriter home from touring in a snowbound southern city with no plows or salt trucks :)

Also to improve our ranking, you can sign up on unkovr for free, make us a FAVORITE (if you are so inclined), and hear a whole bunch of other curated music. Hmm, I feel like I’m in a museum now that I’ve been curated. I hope it’s one of those fun museums with crocheted alligators and a frying pan collection.

Thanks to Dave Way​ for recommending us for this honor and for saying this nice thing, “Jeni Hankins has been called 'the new queen of Appalachia.' Her voice carries generations of joy and misery from her small town family life in mining country. And with the help of her true love, Billy Kemp, they tell vivid stories of these people, places, and time, always with a fine poetic flair and genuine heart.”

I am going to need a nap today, can you tell? Yep, I’m what Mawmaw Margie called slap happy. That’s what happens when you go to bed at 1:30 and wake up at 4:30. Thanks for humoring me and VOTING :)

Hugs and Love to all of our friends and fans!

Freezing Rain & Coffee Cake

Freezing rain seems like a really good excuse to make & eat vegan coffee cake.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Flower Cocoon

Last night, I dreamed that a single flower was trying to bud on a very tiny tree in our yard and I went up and talked to it. I said not to worry and that I would sew it a little quilted cocoon to get it through tonight. It was anxious, but grateful. Getting ready for an ice storm here in Nashville. Billy is getting groceries and I am writing about it. He's a good fella.

We'd be so glad if you would leave a comment on YouTube

Hey everyone! I have great news. Youtube now allows moderated COMMENTS on videos, so I have opened up all of our Youtube videos to comments (now that I can weed out the nutty stuff). Now, we just need some comments, so it would be WONDERFUL of you, if you would consider choosing a video or two you like on our channel and making a comment. Even if it's just one word like "Lovely" or something short like "You guys can pack my car anytime" or "Jeni, I like that dress," that would be wonderful. And I will try to answer back. Lots of thanks for giving this a try! SMILES AND HUGS!

Jeni & Billy's YouTube Channel

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Poem for a mustachioed woodpeckker

Our friend, Susan Hankin​, is an animal lover and a brilliant teacher of animal law, but she also happens to take photos worthy of National Geographic. She has a plethora of birds just around her neighborhood in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Sometimes, I can't help myself and I have to write a poem to go with her photos. This one is about a male pileated woodpecker. Brilliant photo by Susan Hankin.

The Bird with the Red Mustache

I saw a bird with a red mustache.
He was dapper and dressed in grey.
Never a bird with such panache
has knocked on a stump, I say.

He is the pinnacle of the wood-pecking set
and I’m honored he graced our yard.
No there never was a gentle bird yet,
who pileated with as much charm.

by Jeni Hankins​

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thank you!

Thanks for all of the happy wishes, yesterday, everyone! Hugs to all!