www.whisperingandhollerin.com Review: 'HOPKINS, THEA' 'Lilac Sky' - Label: 'Self-released' - Genre: 'Alt/Country' - Release Date: 'March 2013' Our Rating: 9/10
‘Lilac Sky’ is the latest release from Boston singer/songwriter THEA HOPKINS and is her third release to date. However, this six track mini album marks a departure from the contemporary folk music of her first two albums. Here, instead, we have six tracks of pure Americana, although Thea describes it as: "Native Americana" which reflects her Wampanoag and Cherokee ancestry.
The first track ‘Might’ve Stayed in Memphis’ showcases all that’s great about this album. It's a country track that gets a bit rockier on the chorus with musicianship that blends acoustic and steel guitars. This chugs along very nicely with Thea’s lyrics working well on the theme of being in one place far too long, and the need to move on: -“Woke up this morning the sky was soaked in grey/Heard a street preacher yelling pray, pray, pray/ Looked out my window, saw the bridge to Arkansas/ I might've stayed in Memphis too long...Something tells me it's time to move on." This starts the album on a high note and plays to Thea’s strengths. She is an excellent songwriter with a memorably vivid line in lyrics and a fine ear for melody.
These abilities shine on the title track of the album, ‘Lilac Sky’, a rock ‘n’ roll song that has a real relevance to those who have been worn down by work, hardship and life in general: - “Lilac Sky turning black/ A train rolls down a railroad track Streets so narrow where we fall, Into each other's arms/ Windows rattle like tambourines, In this hotel sitting between Blue highways, blue mountaintops." Thea also excels on the final track, the doomy ‘Watcha Gonna Do?’ a well textured country song which blends guitars and mandola perfectly. Whilst the subject matter is depressing, it should strike a chord instantly with any fans of Woody Guthrie: - “Sun rises up, red as rust, On this town that's gone bust Company here said good bye/ Cleared out in record time...A hole in this town where the jobs disappear." This is a song in which you can almost taste the hopelessness, the grit and dust in people’s mouths as they try to eke out a living from day to day. It's a hard-bitten way for the album to end, but lyrically it is a spectacular tour de force.
Thea Hopkins recently won the first place in American Songwriter magazine’s lyric contest and on the strength of this, I can only concur that such an accolade was richly deserved.
author: Nick Browne
What Goethe claimed once again? Right, yeah ... "Only in moderation is the master revealed." On "Lilac Sky," Boston singer-songwriter Thea Hopkins has chosen to release a modest number of good songs instead of a long CD filled to the brim with a lot of chaff among the wheat.
Among the six songs, four of them are self-written. They are delicious: Linda Thompson's country tug "Do Your Best For Rock And Roll" and a Marianne Faithfull and Barry Reynolds penned song, "When I Find My Life." In both songs Hopkins showcases her great talents as a singer. A truly crystal clear voice. Very efficient too! And that is certainly so for her writing. (She recently won a song competition held by the authoritative American Songwriter Magazine.)
Among her original songs are the catchy country tune "Might've Stayed In Memphis." "Lilac Sky" shoots smoothly out of the starting gates. The atmospheric "Down By The Water" rewards a close listen. Of special note, "Whatcha Gonna Do? " is a folk oriented beauty. Each of these songs absolutely must be heard.
Unlike her two previous albums "Birds Of Mystery" from 2001 and "Chickasaw" in 2007, the singer and songwriter Thea Hopkins of Boston, Massachusetts on her third album - the ep "Lilac Sky" - more than ever looking for a good sounding melody in the six songs on this album were recorded. Connoisseurs of you may remember that Thea Hopkins was the author of the song "Jesus Is On The Wire" in 2004 by folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary "in the charts was sung, and a place was on their album" In These Times ". .
With her unique voice, she works effortlessly through songs like "Might've Stayed In Memphis", the uptempo transferred title track "Lilac Sky" (see video) and the smooth country songs "Down By The Water" and "Whatcha Gonna Do?". Four songs on this EP were composed by Thea Hopkins himself and two other songs she chose from the repertoire of other notorious female singer-songwriters. So she brings a highly personal interpretation of "When I Find My Life" by Marianne Faithfull, who number themselves first brought on her CD "A Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology" from 1998. Totally against the expectations created by the title, the second cover "Do Your Best For Rock And Roll" no good swinging song, but a beautiful, understated singing jazzy piano ballad. It is therefore in our opinion the best song on this ep, all the way a song that immediately after the first listening to our iPod was placed. It's a song that was written by Teddy Thompson and his mother Linda Thompson. The ex-wife of Richard Thompson recorded this song for her album "Versatile Heart" from 2007. The beautiful piano work on this song is from Tim Ray, a man who earned his spurs as a supervisor of Lyle Lovett. A great voice, his own compositions to 'you' to say, with love songs selected to retreading, which is our final conclusion about "Lilac Sky" by Thea Hopkins. With the hope that we soon another full album of her must look forward, we close our story about this ep satisfied with this off. (Valsam)
The music on this e.p. belongs to a woman with a voice that has some life and love for her art in it. It has a richness beyond some of the more lightweight voices that are associated with country music on the radio these days.
Thea Hopkins latest release is that increasingly frequent format the e.p. Not quite an album, but more than a single, it allows an artist to release some product without having to make a full album and is a handy touring item. Two of the six tracks here are covers. She does a good job of Linda and Teddy Thompson Do Your Best For Rock And Roll, a song full of yearning and hope and likewise puts some meaning into her cover of the Marianne Faithful/Barry Reynolds song When I Find My Life. She has gathered some good players around her for the recording. There are three guitarists featured all play with conviction but Andy Hillinger's twang on Hopkins' Down By The Water giving the song a cutting edge and a stamp of Americana. The rhythm section are solid and Tim Ray's piano is used effectively. As a writer Hopkins reveals a depth and an understanding in her songs like Might've Stayed In Memphis and with the title song.
Thea Hopkins joins the ranks of singer/songwriters whose role is to perfect their craft rather than redefine it. But she does so with enough of her own identity that these six tracks leave you curious to hear more. That in itself is an achievement that makes Lilac Sky a pretty good reason to have made it and an equally good reason to listen to it.
Stephen Rapid http
NYC SONGWRITER’S BEAT A long-running New York City acoustic series travels to Boston, courtesy of its founder, Valerie Ghent. Also appearing are local artist Thea Hopkins, fresh off a victory in a recent American Songwriter magazine lyric competition, and the prolific group Birdsong at Morning, who just released a four-disc set of their meldings of classical and Appalachian folk music. Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $10. Arts at the Armory. 617-718-2191, www.artsatthearmory.org
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA 5/3/12
A fine gig tonight at a great packed venue for long-time folk talent Thea Hopkins. She’s opening for the legendary Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, he of the more talk/less music mentality (that’s what octogenarians are apt to do—whoa!). Immediately Thea and her tremendous sidekick, Andy Hollinger (guitar/ mandolin), set the audience upright with a short collection of great folk-rockin’ material. Her voice is crisp and clear with gorgeous sustained tones vested with both blues and country inflections. She graces us with an uptempo version of Linda and Teddy Thompson’s tune, “Do Your Best for Rock ’n’ Roll,” that gets the crowd boppin’, but it’s her original material that is the focal point. “Down By the Water,” “Hold On,” “Rows and Rows of Stars,” and “Lilac Sky,” the title tune from her upcoming new album, are standouts. Thea also proudly tells us that she has just won an American Songwriter contest and will be receiving a new Gibson guitar. Bravo and fait accompli. (Harry C. Tuniese)
Maverick Magazine – "Chickasaw" Review - August 2008
Brave songwriting by a woman who knows the importance and power of words.
Thea Hopkins isn’t afraid to tackle a sensitive subject. Take Jesus Is On The Wire for instance; it tells the true story of Matthew Shepherd, a young man who was taken out to the country, tied to a fence and then beaten to death by two men because he had the audacity to be gay. A church minister actually turned up at his funeral as he was being lowered into the ground and shouted, ‘God hates faggots!’ Strange that, I always thought God loved everybody. For this one song alone, Thea Hopkins is to be applauded, because it takes guts to stand up to the hypocrites and religious bigots. ‘They said he slept with guys, they said that he was gonna die.’ Those lyrics would still resonate if the song was fiction, but because they are penned in truth they send a shiver down the spine.
Hopkins is no one trick pony though; there are other songs here that are just as potent. She gets the war mongers in her sights on River Of Fire and scores a direct hit on the Bush administration: ‘the king sends his riders out just before the dawn, to the four corners of the earth he’s set his eye upon.’ Pretty powerful stuff delivered in a high lonesome voice slightly reminiscent of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell—two women who know a little bit about protest songs themselves. Like any good storyteller, Hopkins has the lyrical talent to create startling images in the mind, and she reminds us of what it is to be human. She evokes charming memories of childhood with The Edge Of Geary, whilst Once There Was A Lover, a song about choosing the wrong partner, is sure to strike a chord in anyone who’s ever walked this world hand in hand with a mistake. I would have liked to hear a little more variation in the pacing of the songs, but that really is splitting hairs. After all, mother earth needs all the courage she can get at the moment, and Thea Hopkins is one brave girl indeed. I salute her. DH
Maverick Magazine, UK (Sep 1, 2008)
Americana UK, "Chickasaw" Review
“Immaculately played and produced, with narratives that drip with metaphor and imagery… Thea Hopkins possesses a voice that stands up to her material… The title track showcases the style perfectly, evocative and with a hint of menace. This is folk as it should be: dark tales, poetry and protest.”— Americana-UK
Folk and Acoustic Music Exhange - "Chickasaw" Review
Thea Hopkins possesses a voice and style that are so unique and brilliant that you wonder why the rest of the world has not yet caught on. She is sultry and sensuous, serious and playful, mysterious and fascinating all at once. She is reminiscent of the great torch singers, but also has a modern and contemporary sound which she shares with the likes of Sarah McLaughlin and Natalie Merchant. The bottom line is that she knows how to take an audience on a ride that touches the full range of human emotions.
Chickasaw is her sophomore release—a worthy follow-up to the classic songs of her 2001 debut, Birds of Mystery. Chickasaw is subtitled "American short story folk," and indeed, the many wonderful songs here truly do tell a story about people living on the edge of love, of luck, and of life.
An air of romance, of earth-shattering love and lust, permeates the richly sensual Rows and Rows of Stars. David Goodrich colors Thea's gorgeous vocals with his superb work on guitar and piano. This is a song you can just drift away on—you don't want it to end.
The Edge of Geary brings back images of a small-town childhood as it appears in memory. Thea's soft, sultry alto rises to meet Chris Thompson's harmony vocals. Ian Kennedy shines on violin.
Every one of us has a story about choosing the wrong lover—the one who is too good to be true. Once There Was a Lover describes just this kind of false suitor. It is one of the recording's best cuts:
Once there was a lover who found
Shelter in Jesus and all he adored
Thorns and desire, roses and fire
Was all his heart had room for.
The Weather Turns is so hauntingly beautiful a song that its melody and lyrics stay with you long after you have listened to it. Natalie Haas on cello helps to create an air of melancholy and mystery. Thea's voice caresses the lyrics with her special magic.
Dave Goodrich, on resonator guitar, opens the title track, Chickasaw" This is a classic song of love gone badly and irrevocably wrong.
There are so many great songs here, I could address each and every one of them. But none is as moving as the revised version of Thea's riveting Jesus is on the Wire, which has been covered by Peter, Paul and Mary. Here she paints a picture of an unforgettable landscape, and a day that will go down in our collective memory. This song is a modern classic.
The beauty of Thea's voice is matched by the brilliance of her lyrics. Some singers know how to sing and others know how to write. Thea Hopkins draws you in with her sensual, sultry voice, but keeps your attention by wrapping that voice around beautiful melodies and wonderful stories. She's a marvelous talent. Get lost in her mystery. You may never want to be found. --Roberta B. Schwartz - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
“Birds of Mystery” 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.”
Boston Herald- "Birds of Mystery" Review
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
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.
Roberta B. Schwartz - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
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. Perfomer Magazine
Metronome - "Birds of Mystery" Review
“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.”
"I saw Thea Hopkins' showcase at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance conference. Her songs are intelligent and beautifully written. Her voice carried me away. I could listen to her sing her songs forever." David Pyles - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
"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."
Peter, Paul & Mary