In front of an age-old trailer, or under the porch of a broken-down home, sit two weatherworn ladies. Guitar in hand, they sing their songs of wonder, distilling years of struggle into blissful and blithe melodies. And still their dry-but-mellow voices dance into the world…
Precious Bryant (4 January 1942 – ) and Algia Mae Hinton (29 August 1929 – ) have wandered through the century, singing lullabies to their children and grandchildren. Real, timeless, their music has travelled across the Atlantic, meandered between the Piedmont and the Blue Ridge Mountains, and settled into a style of fingerpicking a little reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt, Jimmy Rodgers, or their buddy Elisabeth Cotton – of this particular sound that travelled all the way from Europe and collided with Africa.
Deep in the rubble of a forgotten South West, far away from the Mississippi, both river and State, the two fine fingerstyle guitarists play, evoking the tingle of rain on sheet metal. Gentle and unobtrusive, unaffected by a half- century of changes, they have salvaged the precious and youthful feel of the timeless blues: an enthralling and beautiful sound, distinctly feminine, with major chords and melancholy textures.
Their more recent recordings have earned them some measure of success, and a few nominations and awards, and what you have here is a selection of works from both grandmothers – as a tribute to the “gran’mas I’ve never had”.
Precious Bryant was born in Talbot County, Georgia, in 1942. She was raised in a family of music-makers, in a village packed with stomping blues and spirituals. She soon developed her own inspired style of blues, away from the mainstream, with only her voice and her guitar. In the 1990s, she played the Newport Folk Festival as well as a few concerts in Europe – but mostly she stuck to Georgia and the surrounding areas. In 1967, she walked into a studio for the first time to record with Georges Mitchell. Three wonderful songs still remain from those sessions.
Her music is simple, yet inspired, and speaks of daily struggles. Precious Bryant is one of the last living great blues women from the 20th century – and still living in her mobile-home in the deep woods of Georgia.
Algia Mae Hinton was born in Johnston County, North Carolina, on 29th August 1929, in a family of farmers. She was the youngest of 14 and was soon put to work in the fields. At the age of 9 already, her mother taught her the guitar. In 1965, after her husband’s death, she was left alone to raise her 7 children. Despite those circumstances, Algia still managed to impose the musical arts in her household and to pass them on to her children. Music provided the family and the whole community with crucial solace throughout their trials and tribulations. Algia Mae plays the 6-string guitar, the 12-string and the banjo. She’s also an accomplished singer and a fantastic Buck dancer.