Hills of Swannanoa from Anya Hinkle

Organic Records has released a new single from Anya Hinkle, known from her work with old time/Americana groups Dehlia Low and Tellico. The noted singer and songwriter will release her first full-length album under her own name with them later this year.

The song, written by Anya with Akira Satake, recalls one of the worst natural catastrophes to strike her part of western North Carolina during the 20th century.

Hills of Swannanoa is the story of the Great Flood of 1916. The unusually heavy mid-summer rains that year, coming in addition to heavy logging in the Carolina mountains, caused severe flooding of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers, and heavy damage in the Asheville area. My friend, Akira, had written an instrumental tune called Swannanoa after moving to nearby Black Mountain almost 20 years ago to start a ceramics studio, and he asked me if I might want to write some lyrics. I let my mind wander to the beautiful Swannanoa Valley, where I spent a lot of time with my daughter when she was very small. There is a mystical feeling there: vibrations from the ancient Cherokee, heavy mists that shroud the hills, generous green that carpets the valleys. It feels sacred, sad and beautiful.

The modal scale of the tune, somewhere in between a major and minor key, naturally gives the listener a feeling of both beauty and tragedy. I began to read about the flood and let the story develop from there, creating my own song that knits together seamlessly with Akira’s instrumental melody. The story is fictional, but based on true events: prisoners really did drown in their cells, all of Asheville’s bridges were washed away, hundreds of houses were destroyed, dozens of people were killed.”

Hinkle plays guitar and sings, supported by Billy Cardine on reso-guitar, Julian Pinelli on fiddle , Thomas Cassell on mandolin, and Johnny Calamari on bass.

Here’s a taste…

Hills of Swannanoa is available now wherever you stream or download music online. Radio programmers can grab the track at AirPlay Direct.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.