Jeni Hankins (USA): Appalachian songwriter & sewing machine player + Biscuits ‘n Gravy

Date/Time Sun 09 Oct 2022 8:00 PM

Price Online - £9 + 90p fee; On The Door - £11


Jeni Hankins grew up in the coalfields of Appalachian in Southwest Virginia among a family of miners, moonshiners, and journalists. Her writing pulls the grit, gumption, and keen sense of observation out of that heritage like drawing water from her grandmother’s well. A songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and flatfoot dancer, Jeni is best known for the sound of the “born-in-the bone twang” of her voice and her true tales of mountain life.

For ten years, Jeni toured as part of the critically acclaimed duo Jeni & Billy, spending nine months of every year on the road. In 2013 their first concert for us made them instant TwickFolk favourites. After the duo split up, Hankins moved to the UK and released an album reflecting her new home and the journey that brought her here. Her latest album is a retrospective look at her songs from the last 15 years.

In every song, Jeni’s “true sense of place shines through – old as the hills, but brand new at the same time.”

“Hankins’ approach is often compared to that of Hazel Dickens (1925-2011) and aptly so. Though Hankins has a smoother, less nasal voice than Dickens, it has the same born-in-the-bone twang – the kind you don’t get by dressing up country and scouring songbooks. Hankins also grew up in the same contiguous coal mine region that spawned Dickens, and with the same sensibilities: an appreciation for the grace of ordinary people, mountain gospel music, support for miners’ unions, and a gift for finding beauty where less attuned people fail to see it.” (Sing Out Magazine).

The videos on this page were by shot Eugene on Jeni’s last visit to TwickFolk in 2017.

Support comes once more from Biscuits & Gravy:
 Biscuits ‘n Gravy supported Jeni in 2017 (see the video to the left) and we’ve invited them back at Jeni’s request.

Isabel Williams and Emily Waddilove have been singing together for many years – mainly at local folk clubs and open mics. They play fiddle, banjo and guitar and sing close harmonies – mainly American old time, early bluegrass and gospel.

Their rapport, interpretation of the music and genuine love and gratitude for the songs they sing has been noted and praised by many fellow musicians steeped in the tradition. As Jeni said: ‘they remind me of home’.