Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hand Sewn Patchwork Pillows for sale!

Patchwork Pillow happiness. I sold my first patchwork pillow in person at our Huntington Beach concert on Saturday night and our friend Edie who had seen my pillows on Facebook, came by and picked up two that she had ordered. Thanks Edie!! Mawmaw was really excited to hear about it all. It brightened her day to know that I was making an income from sewing. It's exciting for me, too, since it's a skill I've practiced since I was little and I enjoy it so very much.
If you'd like to order a patchwork pillow, let me know. They are $75 plus postage. Entirely hand sewn by yours truly. I can send you a photo of the middles that I have with me – that's the piece of fabric in the middle (often pictorial) around which I build the the patchwork. The backs are made of recycled shirts, some with pockets (for prayers, wishes, dreams), some without. If you especially want a back with a pocket let me know and that will be no trouble at all smile emoticon The pillows vary in size from about 8 x 12 inches to 15 x 15, some wide, some tall. I just decide where to stop when I feel like the colors have all come together.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Silly Folk Summit

Report from Los Osos, California: You know what's great? Having a folk summit of two and being silly with Amber Cross​. One of my favorite tour photos ever. I love you to pieces, Amber!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Holding fast to what she taught me – in memory of Virginia Lowe

Special Report from Los Angeles, California, in honor of my mentor, Virginia Lowe: I talk a lot about heaven in our shows and listening to the obituaries on the radio with my great-grandmother, and funeral home tote bags. I know that part of the reason I do is because I grew up with a bunch of women – my grandmother and her sisters – who talked a lot about heaven in the course of just any ole thing like lunch or curling their hair. We once played a concert in Northern California to a mostly Chinese audience and I was never so conscious of how many times I say the word "Heaven" in the course of a show. Afterward, nearly every person in our audience came up and said hello, had a picture made with us, and one woman echoed several others when she said, "I like how you talk about heaven. It's very beautiful. I feel happy."

Virginia Lowe was buried on Friday morning. Some of you who have read my posts or our bio, will know that she was my musical mentor. I grew up listening to her sing and preach at the Friendly Chapel Church on Smith Ridge just across the road from Mawmaw's house.

Mawmaw's church is Pentecostal. When I was a child, people spoke in languages I didn’t understand, they believed in a fire that did not burn, they fell down in the floor with the spirit, and they sang. They sang loudly and passionately. Their singing got under my skin because it wasn’t for prettiness or show – they were hollering their story up to God with every ounce of their being. To me this is singing and this is songwriting – to shout the story of life as an urgent message to the beyond.

The person who embodied this entirely was Virginia Lowe. Her body literally shook and quavered as she sang. She was a short lady with narrow shoulders, but her voice sounded like it came straight from Moses' burning bush. Whether she was preaching or singing, and she went from one to the other constantly, she was like an instrument made of bone, flesh, and hair on which God strummed a mighty chord.

She had no artifice about her. She loved cakes. She was cagey about being recorded because she was suspicious of people making money from her singing, not because she thought her singing was wonderful, but because her singing was a record of the spirit being cut into the grooves of every heart in the congregation.

She was blind since childhood and so was her husband, Jim, who died two years ago. They went to school with Ronnie Milsap and you could hear those same country roots when she played the piano. She was very troubled after Jim's death and never seemed comfortable in the world without him.

Her death was not a shock to me. She had been sick more than she had been well since Jim passed over, but I feel a sadness nevertheless. I did switch on my voice recorder in the service once or twice and I can go back and hear her. But I will miss being in her physical presence because to be so was like being in front of the great riddle of life itself.

The songs she sang at the Friendly Chapel were the ones I distilled into the lyric for our song Made As New. When I sing, it is my aim to honor the fiercely honest way of singing that Virginia taught me. I don't sing to be admired, but to relay a message that I think must be delivered. Our songs are not created to glorify us, but to bring joy, warning, empathy, kindness, and respite to fellow travelers. If I fail at this, then I've no business doing this work and I best just stick to sewing. Life is short and it seems best do what matters and bring love to table.

When I was in school and read about the oracles in Greece or Yeats' mediums, I always thought of Virginia Lowe – a woman sitting with a braille Bible at her side, eating a second piece of cake, about to sing out an urgent message brought out of the mouth of God into a little mountain church to the few that would hear. Those that did hear will not soon forget the message or woman that spoke it.

If you would like to hear Virginia's powerful singing, I invite you to click this link.

Friday, October 16, 2015

FOUR Jeni & Billy & Craig Concerts in Cali to go!

LAST FOUR Jeni & Billy & Craig Eastman Cali concerts coming up in the next week, one tomorrow in LA, three on the Central Coast:

Sat, 10/17: Shirley Family Concert, Huntington Beach, CA

Fri, 10/23: SLO House Concerts, San Luis Obispo, CA

Sat, 10/24: Founder's Day Street Fair, Templeton, CA (a short guest appearance courtesy of our terrific friends Amber Cross and the Old Time Fiddle & Banjo show) – four song set, so come on Sat or Sun for a full show

Sun, 10/25: Brickyard Theater, Atascadero, CA

See you soon!!!

Photo by Debbie Snider from Shirley Family Concert 2014.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Recording in Burbank with The Good Intentions & Rick Shea

Report from Burbank, California: In the studio with The Good Intentions and Rick Shea! Making some country music, Liverpool-style! This is my little patch of studio earth at Paul's which I've already turned into Jeniland with a quilting magazine, sewing projects, postcards, stamps, and cameras. Makes me miss Chris, Ger, Val, Jim, Grateful Fred's, and so many of our friends across the ocean!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Good Morning, Cinema Bar Tonight

Good morning from sunny Los Angeles, California: Sending love out to all of our friends! We are playing at the Cinema Bar in Culver City tonight! No ticket, but Tips. So, if you missed us on Friday, here's another chance...7: Jeni & Billy, 8: The Good Intentions (Liverpool), 9: Rick Shea & the Losin' End. Going to do some country songs...our kind of country smile emoticon

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Frank's pizza & more sites so far in the newsletter

First of 5 LA Dates tonight! New newsletter says it all! I also tell you about Frank's Pizza & give you the scoop on other bits of our tour so far. Tickled to pieces to be here! 

Tue, 10/6: Aliso Viejo Library, Aliso Viejo, CA
Fri, 10/9: Coffee Gallery Backstage, Altadena, CA*
Sat, 10/10: Sun City Library, Sun City, CA
Sun, 10/11: Cinema Bar, Culver City, CA**
Sat, 10/17: Shirley Family Concert, Huntington Beach, CA*
Fri, 10/23: SLO House Concerts, San Luis Obispo, CA*
Sun, 10/25: Brickyard Theater, Atascadero, CA*
Sat. 11/7: Four Corners House Concerts, Farmington, NM

*with Very Special Guest, Craig Eastman
**with Rick Shea and the Losin’ End plus The Good Intentions

Backward-walking horses

Report from Los Angeles, California: LA is for me a place of firsts, like seeing a man on roller skates in a tiny swimsuit with a cape-wearing dog in his backpack, but there are also crossing buttons for backward-walking horses, way up in the air, just in case. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Las Vegas in the Rain

Report from I-15, heading to Los Angeles:

Las Vegas in the Rain
by Jeni Hankins

This is the kind of weather 
gamblers love.
Stormy weather doesn't laugh
at them the way the hot desert sun does –
with all of the smiling tourists making pretend 
that this is a kind of Disneyland.

This is getting down to business weather
where gamblers shape-shift into a spoke of
the wheel of fortune – so married to the roulette
table that they become an arm, leg, or head.

Dealers and gamblers hunker down for a
long battle of wills. There's the air of Thanksgiving
Day about the Mirage Hotel – a day where other
people have a heavy dinner on thin china, pray,
watch football, and yell at their kids to stop running 
in the house. But gamblers and dealers give
tacit thanks on Thanksgiving that there are no
distractions, no kids, no strollers, no bachelorette
parties, but only each other, the table, and the cards.

Today is like that. A free day where the tourists are 
watching Jimmy Cagney or Storage Wars on satellite TV
or trying to get last minute tickets to Cirque de Soleil
or Celine Dion or Wayne Newton, to some comedian who
will probably use foul language in front of the kids.
Anything to get out of the hotel room that seemed so
big and where the towels seemed so fluffy, with a lofty pile
that seemed mythical and impossible to replicate at home.
But the towels have turned sour in the endless dripping rain.
And the kids are bored.
For this, they could have stayed in New Jersey.

But the gambler, he has his shoulder against the wheel
and the dealer – a cross between Fortuna and Marilyn 
Monroe in bleach blonde hair and fuchsia lipstick
with a terribly knowing set to her jaw –
she pulls down her visor like a blindfold and spins. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Great Dane Day

Report from Gunnison, Colorado: Sometimes we get some pretty fantastic guests at our concerts...