In August, 2001, the famed folk trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, began performing Thea's topical song, "Jesus Is On The Wire" all across America. A haunting indictment of American hate crimes, the song tells the story of the late Matthew Shepard. In an April, 2003 review of a Peter, Paul & Mary concert in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Jeffrey Lee Puckett wrote: "The best song among the newer material was a powerful version of Thea Hopkins' "Jesus i s o n the Wire," a song about the 1998 hate-crime murder of Matthew Shepard by anti-gay thugs. Travers sang it with immense feeling and the arrangement was gorgeous without caving in to sentimentality."
Peter, Paul & Mary themselves have written that "Thea Hopkins is one of the most poetic, literate and powerfully moving of the new singer/songwriters to emerge on the scene in the last few years. Her song, 'Jesus Is On the Wire' is a compelling composition with a riveting story-telling style. This is one of the most important songs we have sung in recent years."
In the Palo Alto Weekly, Peter Yarrow was recently quoted as saying that Thea's song " makes you cry, but you don't cry openly, because (otherwise) you can't sing. So you cry in your heart. Your heart breaks for the inhumanity and you pray for a world in which that kind of horror will not be recapitulated."
Yet "Jesus Is On the Wire" is but one of many strong compositions on "Birds of Mystery," a highly melodic debut album that is aware of social concerns, but largely considers the ways of the heart, the path of personal relationships, and even matters of the spirit. The CD received rave reviews in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and Metronome Magazine when it was released in 2001. By the end of the year, the disc was named one of 2001's Top Ten local albums by the Boston Herald. "A gorgeous dusky voice wraps itself like mist around country-folk songs of tenderness and substance," wrote Herald staff-writer Sarah Rodman.
Though chiefly influenced by folk, country and pop, Thea's songs are also touched by a wide array of American music. Meditative, romantic and philosophic, they rise up with a sophisticated melodic imagination.
"Birds of Mystery" features harmony vocals by Catie Curtis and Greg Greenway, and is bolstered by acoustic guitarist John Curtis (Pousette-Dart Band), blues electric guitarist Peter Parcek, jazz/folk fiddler Matt Glaser, accordionist Evan Harlan and violinist Mimi Rabson.
In 2002, she received an ASCAP PLUS Award for emerging songwriters.
Thea grew up in Shrewbury and Worcester, MA, and attended Berklee College of Music. She has performed at Club Passim, Johnny D's, the Kendall Cafe, the Middle East, the Cantab, TT the Bears, Northampton's Fire & Water, and, in New York City at CB's Gallery and The Bitter End. The album has received airplay on WUMB-FM and WERS-FM, among other non-commercial radio stations. It has also been aired on the nationally syndicated "Women In Music" radio program.
A SELECTION OF 'BIRDS OF MYSTERY' REVIEWS...
3 & 1/2 stars Local singer-songwriter Thea Hopkins is blessed with a creamy, clarion voice and a vivid observational eye. Those attributes, plus a little help from her friends, make ``Birds of Mystery'' a strong debut -- a blend of country, folk and pop. Catie Curtis lends harmonious help on "Western Town," and Greg Greenway adds gravitas to the affecting ``Jesus is On the Wire,'' which powerfully takes up the hate-crime murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd. Violinist Mimi Rabson lends the dustily charming ``Down in Egypt'' a smoky quality, and John Curtis contributes a sunny, comforting guitar solo to the lovely romantic ballad ``Say You Will.'' But make no mistake, Hopkins' poetic impressions and dusky vocals that recall Mary Chapin Carpenter and Jennifer Warnes are the star attractions here. -- Sarah Rodman, Boston Herald
"A refreshingly naturalistic songwriter with a supple, inviting voice."
-- Scott Alarik, Boston Globe
Clarity and poise... Among the more striking passages are "Jesus is On the Wire," a stirring ballad, and the haunting palette of "Blues on the Edge of This Town." -- Matthew S. Robinson, Boston Globe
"Moments of sultry brilliance" -- N.E. Performer Magazine
"Thea Hopkins has one of the sweetest voices you'll ever hear: clear, powerful, and above all, soulful. Hopkins also displays her songwriting savvy on "Birds of Mystery." - Metronome
From The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange" by Roberta B. Schwartz, July 2003
Thea Hopkins has a lovely, rich, sultry, soulful voice that weaves itself around lyrics of great beauty. She has the kind of sound that makes you sit up and listen and wonder where and when you can hear more.
Not only is her vocal style unique and different, but her take on subjects well-worn by singer/songwriters feels fresh and new.
Take the moment when lovers part in When the Moon Walked In. Hopkins describes the scene as "when the moon walked/ in that night/ when you turned in the/ pale cold light/ when the moon walked in you sighed,/ I've had enough of what you hide/ when the moon walked in."
In Down to Egypt she takes us to a place "that has a heart/ sand and stone, broken art/ It has secrets no one knows/ It has rooms, / Where no one ever goes."
The horrible deaths of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming and James Byrd in Texas have been written about in both prose and in song. No one has captured the feel, the place and the emotions involved as well as Hopkins in Jesus is on the Wire. Talented singer/songwriter Greg Greenway adds his expressive tenor to the verse on James Byrd - one of the CD's best moments.
My favorite cut on this well-crafted recording is Say You Will, a simple love song that showcases the beauty of Hopkins' voice. It features John Curtis on guitar with just a dab of Craig Harris on percussion.
Hopkins surrounds herself with stellar support. In addition to Greenway, Catie Curtis provides harmony vocals, Matt Glaser and Mimi Rabson are on violins, with Eric Kilburn on mandolin and harmonica.
This is music to dream by and to love by. It is music to listen to on a lazy afternoon or a rainy day. I would be surprised if no one takes notice of Hopkins' specialness. Even if you have a short list of must have CD purchases this year, add Birds of Mystery to that list and start singing her praises. Thea Hopkins is a star on the rise.