About "POINTS OF VIEW":
After a decade of imaginative and rewarding collaborations with fellow musicians (including Tom Paxton and Michael Smith), Victorian-era poets (James Whitcomb Riley) and child naturalists (Opal Whiteley), Anne Hills’ eighth solo album, Points of View, marks her long-awaited return to her own original songs.
Anne’s multiple careers as an award-winning musician, poet, and social worker, as well as actress, writer, artist, wife, and mother, infuse the lyrics of her eleven originals with graceful poetry and real-life experience, and her empathic and caring spirit lights each song from within. The characters and situations she describes all ring true because they are universal, bringing Anne’s underlying themes of individuality, diversity, love, loss and resilience in a changing world to vivid life. Colorful natural images are woven into many songs, often providing a backdrop of peaceful perspective to human turmoil.
The CD’s bracing opener, “I Am You,” is a call to bridge the divides of race, gender and religion – a view of an America where society is shaped by our ability to see our great melting pot through the eyes of every immigrant or unwilling slave who arrived here and has became an integral part of our country’s experience. “I stayed here and fought for the truth and what’s right/And my dream is your dream, and my fight is your fight,” Anne sings proudly, “Young and old, gay and straight, every color and hue/I am all, I am one, I am you.” (An earlier version of this song appeared on a 1993 multi-artist benefit recording for the Carole Robertson Center for Learning Center, which aids families and children in need and presented Anne with its Award for Outstanding Service and Loyalty.)
After the wide-screen declaration of “I Am You,” Anne focuses on more specific, but equally pervasive, human circumstances. “The Farm” is a quietly despairing look at economic hard times and the way men often react to job loss – “I have given myself to these dreams/And how do I go on from here?” “Romeo and Juliet,” with music originally composed by jazz drummer Peter Erskine (Weather Report, Yellowjackets) for a choral workshop, is a near-classical retelling of those doomed lovers’ plight, and their final words hold hope of a reunion in the afterlife.
The natural world is the setting for “Pennsylvania,” the tranquil meditation of a lone motorist on a snowy highway, while “Two Year Winter” uses the season to measure deep sorrow. A cold, pre-dawn sidewalk is the starting point for “My Daughter & Vincent van Gogh,” a true story dedicated to Anne’s van Gogh-smitten grade-schooler and husband, about a family trip to a National Gallery exhibit; the morning’s darkness bursts into color as the little girl tangibly experiences each painting. You can hear the loving smile in Anne’s voice. Less fortunate children, those Anne helps as a social worker, are the protagonists in the deceptively breezy “I’m Nobody” – “I’m nobody and I don’t care/If you look in my eyes you’ll see nobody there.” “Leaf” bears the metaphor for a more general identity crisis, but one that will be resolved – “I can’t be done yet, I’ve got too much to do.” The broadest perspective of all comes from a heavenly body in “The Moon’s Song,” a lunar look at Earth with the reminder “Galaxies are born, planets come and go/Nothing in the universe stays the same, you know.”
Complementing Anne’s original songs, some co-written with longtime collaborators Cindy Mangsen, Michael Smith and Allen Power, are cover versions of Leonard Cohen’s vignette of a slow-motion break-up (“Alexandra Leaving”) and Minnesota singer-songwriter Peter Mayer’s “Holy Now,” an acceptance of life’s beauty.
Although Anne’s achingly warm soprano voice, guitar and banjo are the musical core of Points of View, the songs receive sympathetic and versatile coloration by co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Scott Petito, Grammy winning cellist Eugene Friesen, keyboardist Peter Vitalone, drummer Sam Zucchini, and occasional harmony vocalists Mangsen and Priscilla Herdman.
About ANNE HILLS:
Born in Moradabad, India, to educational missionary parents, Anne Hills has literally and figuratively come a long way to arrive at her current status as an adventurous and creative talent in numerous artistic fields and as a committed social activist. Perhaps her birth in a different time zone has enabled Anne to pack more activities into a 24-hour day than the rest of us. . .
Anne’s musical spark was first kindled as a student at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, where she was raised. On hearing an album by future collaborator Tom Paxton, Anne discovered “that it was possible to do what was done in theater and speeches in just one four-minute song . . . That a writer could change the world for the listener and change their political point of view from a personal place.” Anne soon formed a folk trio at the school and served as female vocalist with the Interlochen’s Big Band, which turned out future jazz greats Peter Erskine (still one of Anne’s musical associates), 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 area’s music scene. Her first three records, 1982’s "The Panic is On" (with Jan Burda, produced by Bob Gibson), 1984's I 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 for 18 months while developing her own style of songwriting and performing. Although no studio recordings were made, a 1985 live set by Paxton, Gibson and Hills was released as "Best of Friends" in 2004 by Appleseed Recordings.
Shortly after the release of her second solo album in 1987, Anne began her occasional but very fruitful musical partnership with Cindy Mangsen and Priscilla Herdman, which has led to three trio albums, two duo albums with Mangsen, guest appearances on each other’s recordings, and membership in Fourtold, a folk supergroup comprising Hills, Mangsen, Steve Gillette and Michael Smith, which recorded an eponymous CD of story-songs for Appleseed in 2003. Hills and Smith recorded their own duo album in 1999, "Paradise Lost and Found," and Anne’s 1993 album, "October Child," featured all Smith-penned songs and reunited her with former classmate and noted jazz drummer Peter Erskine, who produced the record.
In 1998, Anne released "Bittersweet Street, " her fifth solo release and the second (after 1995’s "Angle of Light") to highlight her own compositions. By this time, Anne was reaping the full acclaim that her talents as a singer and songwriter deserved. Already the recipient of the Kerrville Music Foundation’s Outstanding Female Vocalist of the Year Award in 1997, Anne was bestowed with a Parent’s Choice Award for her 1998 duet children’s album with Cindy Mangsen, "Never Grow Old. " Subsequent musical honors, aside from an ever-growing popular and critical following, include a Washington Area Music Award (a “Wammie”) for her much-anticipated duo album of socially conscious contemporary folk songs with mentor Tom Paxton, 2001’s "Under American Skies" on Appleseed. In 2002 she received the World Folk Music Associations’s Kate Wolf Memorial Award.
Despite her busy touring and recording schedule, Anne has long explored other avenues of creative expression. In 1997, she turned her song “Dreamcatcher” into a children’s book, illustrated by Michigan artist Liz Paxson. As a poet, her work was recognized with a Second Place in the Atlanta Review’s 1999 International Poetry Contest. As a writer, she received a 2005 Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Project Stream grant award (for the 2007 premiere of her theatrical production, An Evening of James Whitcomb Riley), and received the same grant the following year for her premiere of The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley. These ambitious projects, which respectively set poems by the Victorian-era “Hoosier poet” Riley and the childhood journals of naturalist Opal Whiteley to music, became "Beauty Attends: The Heartsongs of Opal Whiteley" and "Ef You Don’t Watch Out!: Anne Hills Sings the Poems of James Whitcomb Riley," Anne’s two previous CDs.
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, in September 2007.
In her life outside the world of arts, Anne has earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work with honors, received the 2005 Polizzi Award for Dedication and Service in the Field of Social Work, and her commitment to children keeps her busy with benefit concerts and community services.
And finally, in those mysterious extra hours Anne manages to pack into every day, she lives in Bethlehem, Penna., with her husband, Sing Out! Magazine editor Mark Moss, and daughter Tamlyn. (P.S.: Anne also painted Points of View’s cover.)