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As a singer, actress, writer, and musician Anne Hills has continuously built a reputation of merit. During her career, she has received numerous honors and awards including, most recently, the 2012 Posi Music Award in Social Justice (for the song That Kind Of Grace – co-writer David Roth), the 2009 Pennsylvania Partner’s in the Arts Project Stream grant award (she received the same grant for her 2005 premiere of The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley and in 2007 for An Evening of James Whitcomb Riley) and the 2009 – Bound for Glory live radio show favorite – Ithaca, NY. She was the recipient of 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 Parents’ Choice Award. 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 Award) 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 for her 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). Her 2006 recording, Beauty Attends: The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley, was released by Collective Works, followed in summer of 2007 by Ef You Don’t Watch Out!: Anne Hills Sings the Poems of James Whitcomb Riley. In February 2010 her song “Pennsylvania” from Points of View (Appleseed 2009) enjoyed being top play on XM Radio’s folk station. In 2011 she released a duet recording with long-time friend David Roth, Rhubarb Trees (Wind River Records), and 2012 saw the release of a project honoring Tom Paxton The Things I Notice Now (Appleseed). She has performed with the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra in their 2002-3 and their 2008-9 seasons, doing arrangements of her own songs. In May 2014 Anne and The Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre premiered The Morningtime of Now based on the writings of Opal Whiteley which will be included in Touchstone Theatre’s 2015-16 season. This summer she debuted Jay Ansill’s new settings of Robert Graves poems for string quartet and voice in Mallorca, Spain for 2014 Robert Graves Conference. Her new CD “Tracks” (featuring train inspired songs) will be released on a City of New Orleans Club Car ride in September.
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 in 1998, and At the 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. 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).
Anne was born in Moradabad, India, the third daughter of educational missionaries. Raised in Michigan, she attended Interlochen Arts Academy where she formed her first folk trio. She was also the female vocalist with the Big Band that turned out future jazz greats Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer and Chris Brubeck. She moved to Chicago’s fertile folk scene in 1976 and co-founded the folklore center Hogeye Music, still a force in the Chicago music scene.
Her first three recordings, 1982’s The Panic is On (with Jan Burda, produced by Bob Gibson), 1984’s , Don’t Explain, and the “Chicago Folk” Christmas album, On This Day Earth Shall Ring, were released on her own Hogeye Records label. By 1983, she had joined forces with folk luminaries Tom Paxton and Bob Gibson to tour as a trio, while developing her own style of songwriting and performing.
As Anne’s touring schedule and prominence grew, Flying Fish Records added Hogeye Records to their growing catalog. Shortly after the release of her second solo recording Woman of a Calm Heart (produced in Woodstock by Artie Traum and Scott Petito, featuring a duet with Livingston Taylor), Anne began her occasional but very fruitful musical partnership with Cindy Mangsen and Priscilla Herdman. This culminated in the first trio recording Voices (1990, Flying Fish). Anne followed the trio recording with October Child (1993), produced by jazz drummer and former classmate Peter Erskine (Weather Report, Yellowjackets). It features the songs of Michael Smith, arranged by Vince Mendoza and played by session masters Bob Mann, Jimmy Johnson, the late Carlos Vega, Jim Cox and soloist Paul McCandless.
Cindy Mangsen and Anne collaborated on Never Grow Old (1994), a traditional music project that received an Honorable Mention in the Folk category of the Indie Awards (NAIRD, now AFIM). It garnered praise from the radio community, which was thrilled to have the collection of trios and quartets that included a star studded list of guests such as John Hartford, Tom Paxton, Laurie Lewis, and John Roberts and Tony Barrand doing turn-of-the-century folksongs. It caught the attention of All Things Considered host Noah Adams, who invited Anne, Cindy and Steve Gillette to share songs from the project for a special Thanksgiving segment on the syndicated NPR news program.
On the heels of that recording, Anne released Angle of the Light (1995) on Flying Fish/Rounder. This was followed in 1997 by the trio recording Voices of Winter on Gadfly Records, (the title cut written by Anne) which appeared on many “best of the season lists” and played extensively on radio nation wide. Also that year, Anne came out with her first children’s book (illustrated by Michigan artist Liz Paxson) based on her song “Dreamcatcher.”
Anne’s commitment to social justice (receiving a Masters Degree in Social Work with honors on Mother’s Day and recipient of the 2005 Polizzi Award for Dedication and Service in the Field of Social Work) and to children keeps her busy with benefit concerts and community service projects. In September of 1997, The Carole Robertson Center for Learning gave her its Award for Outstanding Service and Loyalty. Located in Chicago, the Center aids families and children in need and is named for the four girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama Baptist church bombing. Earlier that year Anne had produced Part of the Village, the second in a series of benefit recordings (That Kind of Grace, released in 1995, being the first and done with friend David Roth). Both enlisted the help of a variety of fellow artists performing and contributing royalties and profits to the Center’s Vision Fund.
Throughout her career, Anne has taken time to do occasional theater projects such as Quilters (Buffalo’s Studio Arena and Chicago’s Northlight, 1985-86), The Courtship of Carl Sandburg with Bob Gibson (in 1984 at Chicago’s Apollo and Northlight and Lansing’s Boarshead) and co-writing the music with Jay Ansill for, as well as performing in, Lovers (Philadelphia’s Arden Theater 1995). Scarlet Confessions (Victory Gardens Theater July 2002) and The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley(a multi-media production) at The Maureen Stapleton Theater in Troy, NY September 2007. In 2010-11 she appeared in Paul Amandes’ musical Local Wonders based on poet-laureate Ted Kooser’s book of the same name at the Chicago Dramatists and in Lincoln, Nebraska at Lied Center for the Arts.
Anne resides in Bethlehem, PA with her husband Mark Moss, editor of Sing Out! Magazine.
Anne Hills has become one of the better known voices of the contemporary folk music scene, receiving awards and recognition for her live performances (2009 Bound for Glory live radio show favorite- Ithaca, NY), her unique solo and collaborative recording projects (2001 WAMMIE for duet CD with Tom Paxton, Under American Skies), and her overall artistry and benefit work (2002 Kate Wolf Award, Carole Robertson Award & Kerrville Female Vocalist of the Year 1997). Her song “Follow That Road” was the title cut of the Martha’s Vineyard Songwriter Retreat and has enchanted audiences for over a decade. Whether she is singing her own song, the words of 6 year old Opal Whiteley, or 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. So, even if you haven’t become familiar with her voice (featured often on XM/Sirius Folk Radio, The Midnight Special & many other folk shows) you won’t want to miss a chance to hear her songs and stories in person. She’s just begun touring more extensively, winning over audiences with her warm, lively and humorous performances. 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.” Hear more from Anne at: www.annehills.com.