donna hopkins-band
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donna hopkins-band

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | INDIE
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The Donna Hopkins Band is happy to announce that we’ll be a featured act at this year’s Smilefest, http://www.smilefest.com, June 2-4, at the Gorges Music Park, in Lake Toxaway, NC, and we’d love for all our extended family to join us there. We’ll be on the bill with Yonder Mountain String Band, Keller Williams and the Keels, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Sam Bush, the Everyone Orchestra, Hot Buttered Rum, and a ton of other great artists.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this event, we can tell you that Smilefest is one of the southeast’s most respected eclectic music and camping festivals, and this will be its twelfth year of providing “three days of peace, love and music in the Carolina sunshine.” It regularly hosts acts from all sorts of genres, including Bluegrass, Folk, Alt-Country, Jambands, Rock, World Music, Funk and Jazz. So you’re sure to enjoy the weekend, whatever your musical tastes.

Gorges Music Park is located about 35 miles outside of Asheville, NC. And it’s one of the most intimate settings you’re ever going to find for a camping festival. Unlike most of the “superfests,” Smilefest restricts its ticket allotment to ensure that everyone has plenty of space and they’re able to get as close as they’d like to their favorite acts. And if you opt to use the free tent camping, you’re able to lay claim to a space as large as you’d like. In fact, some bands’ online fans actually set up their own little tent cities for the weekend so they can enjoy all the activities together while matching faces to discussion board names.

In addition to a full bill of world-class musicians, appearing on three stages, Smilefest 2006 will also include a robust Kids’ Universe, diverse culinary offerings, a wide array of high-quality vendor merchandise, scenic waterfall exploration, beautiful hiking and biking trails, and free rustic camping. This year will also see the return of Smilefest’s Festi-VOL Village, an interactive exhibit area where attendees will be introduced to worthy non-profit groups they can serve in their own communities once they return home.

If you have any questions about the festival, be sure to visit their website and poke around a bit. We’re really excited about the chance to play at Smilefest and to get to meet as many of you folks as possible. So if you have the time, and you’re up for some great fun and super music, give some thought to coming out with us.

We hope to see you there!

- smilefest


If you're familiar with the Donna Hopkins Band through live performances or her 2003 debut CD, Free to Go, then you already know she's worthy of attention. Otherwise, her Dynasonic CD release Live is a fine introduction.

Hopkins is legit: She's Alabama-bred, farm-raised in hard times. Her mom performed in rock bands in mini-skirts and go-go boots. Her grandfather's music was a tremendous inspiration.

Now in her early 40s, Hopkins has matured into a genuine triple threat as songwriter, singer and guitarist. As a songwriter (she wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks), Hopkins seasons swampy, Gulf Coast funkiness with angular voicings of extended and suspended chords. Listen for examples on "In Spite of Yourself" or "Don't Ask Why." It's classic tension-and-release with a groove, and with lyrics revealing mileage, honesty and soul. It's survival music you can dance to. The grooves come courtesy of bassist Brian Ashley Jones and drummer Richie Jones, who are in the pocket throughout and who also add convincing harmony and backing vocals.

As a singer, Hopkins has a big, distinctive voice that effectively communicates varied emotions. The acoustic "Everything Money Can Buy," for example, puts you on the front porch on a summer evening, right about dinnertime.

As a guitarist, Hopkins can be at turns raw and articulate. She's her own woman, but think equal parts John Lee Hooker and Billy Gibbons, with a dash of Jimmie Vaughan and Robin Trower circa Bridge of Sighs.

The bottom line: Live sounds great, thanks to Dynasonic Mobile, and is a well-focused snapshot of an artist who has plenty of talent and the courage to be herself.
- georgia music magazine


Donna Hopkins is a force of nature.

Long a part of the Atlanta music scene, the Donna Hopkins Band is poised to break out with their second album, Donna Hopkins Band – Live. Donna’s music comes straight from her heart – southern roots music from a woman’s point of view.

Selected as Atlanta’s Best Blues Artist in 2002 by Atlanta Magazine, Donna has assembled a trio of kindred spirits for this amazing band. With Donna on guitar, Richie Jones on drums, and Brian Ashley Jones (no relation) on bass, the Donna Hopkins Band has truly solidified.

Released to critical raves in February 2003, Donna’s first album, Free To Go, attracted a legion of fans to the Donna Hopkins Band. Alert listeners will discover a live, hidden bonus track on Free To Go at the very end of the CD, a soulful version of the old blues standard, “Time To Travel.” Noting the joy of her live performance, Hittin’ the Note reviewer Rob Johnson remarked, “Donna sings with unrestrained roadhouse soul and lays down a great slide solo as beer glasses clink in the background.” The excitement of this live performance carries over to the new live record.


The power of a three-piece band is nowhere more evident than in a live setting, so it was only natural for Donna to choose this element for her follow-up record. A sold-out crowd at Smith’s Olde Bar greeted the Donna Hopkins Band last March in Atlanta, and warm energy filled the air. The first cut is “In Spite of Yourself,” written by Donna after the Iraq invasion. It’s a funky, hard-rocking message song and the three musicians quickly make a statement – they have come to play hard!

Donna’s gutsy vocals and crisp guitar are real attention grabbers. Mixed perfectly with Richie’s punchy percussion and Brian’s in-your-face bass at butt-kicking volume, Donna’s tone is Mulish, raw and raunchy – sort of a “Gov’t Hopkins.”

Richie Jones had played in a band with the guys from Tishamingo and it was the live cut on Free To Go that brought him to Donna’s attention. When choosing the selection for the bonus track, she’d forgotten that Richie had sat in that night – her first reaction when hearing it again was to give him a call! Richie says the Band means the world to him – it is so rewarding to release emotions with an artist like Donna. The three can communicate without words, like they are a single entity.

The powerful and driving “Dirty Alabama Road” tells a story from Donna’s childhood when she stumbled across a bootlegger’s stash. Donna’s remarkable tone in this song and on the whole album is from a 1989 tobacco sunburst Les Paul Custom Lite running through a 1968 Ampeg VT-40. Next up is an emotional “Don’t Ask Why.” The lead cut from Free To Go, here an extended jam at the end features Donna’s rich slide work.

Bass player Brian Ashley Jones from Nashville brings another skill to the band with his songwriting. He says it’s very exciting to have Donna as his muse – her voice is so magical that he can hear it in his head and catch the vibe of what she’s creating. The two first collaborate on “Let Love Go,” an expressive song with an infectious hook.

Brian also plays mandolin, adding a new dimension to Donna’s most requested tune, “Everything Money Can’t Buy.” The backup vocals blend so well here that the listener is carried away. “Free To Go” follows with an overpowering, raw emotional intensity. The three artists are hittin’ the note together, captured in crystal-clear perfection by Dynasonic recording engineer and producer Andy Reilly.

“U-Haul You Back” is an up-tempo, countrified rocker with an infectious beat. Also from the first album is “Thunderin’ in the Thickets.” The longest song on the CD, it is a guitar-jammin’, power trio tour de force.

“Meet Me in the River,” another Donna and Brian composition, tells a story about Donna’s grandmother, Beulah May. “Anything” sounds like it could have been an old blues standard and Donna’s voice brings poignant meaning to the wistful lyrics. The final cut, “Hit Me,” was co-written by all three band members and shows the wonderful promise of the music yet to come.

Donna Hopkins is a diminutive woman with a big voice – and an even bigger heart. The Donna Hopkins Band is a tight, cohesive trio whose music transcends boundaries. Donna Hopkins Band – Live is a CD that will reward the listener each time it is played and belongs in every music lover’s collection.

Reviewed by Ron Currens
Reprinted with permission

- ron currens


My first-ever visit to Neverland Farms in the North Georgia mountains was truly a revelation. An hour's drive north of Atlanta, Neverland Farms is a storybook perfect working farm – 91 acres nestled in a lush mountain valley. I have never seen a more beautiful setting. Miles of picturesque split-rail fencing, gorgeous meadows filled with gamboling horses, flowers blooming everywhere, mountains overlooking all. The site of many weddings and other functions, Neverland has a stunningly designed, 6,000 square foot covered pavilion where the Moon Mountain Music Festival was held.

I never expected to see so many world-class musicians in such an incredible venue. I came, of course, to see the Derek Trucks Band and the Donna Hopkins Band, but I was in a state of full musical overload long before the headliners came on. Stick these names in Google and prepare for some major chillbumps – Paul Hanson, Shane Theriot, Jeff Coffin, and Jonas Hellborg. The names Jeff Sipe and Johnny Neel should already be familiar to everyone reading this.

Of course, the vibe at a festival is as important as the music – and like Neverland Farms itself, the feelings shared were exquisite. All day, people were talking about how beautiful it was. Many new friendships were made and many more renewed. The Hittin' the Note booth was ideally situated and Joe & Vicki Bell and Bill Ector were grinning like to split their faces. Happiness abounded.

- ron currens


It’s a rare commodity that can’t be bought, traded, created, or faked. Eric Clapton tried to get a dose by nudging in on Delaney & Bonnie’s authentic recipe and hiring their group for his debut. But if Donna Hopkins had been on the scene in 1970, he might just as well have called her.

Hailing from Atlanta, Hopkins has been slinging her gutsy brand of bluesy, swampy R&B for a few years, acquiring a loyal and expanding audience through great shows and word of mouth. A regular around town (she appeared as a backing vocalist on homeboy Tinsley Ellis’ most recent album), the singer/songwriter triumphs with her long-awaited debut. Though she’s a fine guitarist, Free To Go is not a six-string showcase. Rather, it’s a rough-hewn but beautifully produced set of predominantly original tunes that could only have been conceived by someone who breathes the humid Georgia air; you can practically see the kudzu, smell the grits, and taste the tangy barbecue in the songs.

Whether it’s the Georgia Satellites-style boogie of “U-Haul You Back,” the soulful, acoustic slide-driven The riff-driven, acoustic-based “Dirty Alabama Road” received regional rock airplay and could find a larger audience - i.e., anyone who bought a Susan Tedeschi album - if given the chance. Dobro, lap steel, fiddle, mandolin, Hammond B-3, and occasional horns add spice, but this is clearly Hopkins’ show. Detours into reggae (on a cover of the gospel traditional “I’ll Fly Away”) and country (on Hank Williams Sr.’s “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”) maintain the whiskey-soaked undercurrent, helped immensely by Hopkins’ throaty, sexy voice. Even the acoustic instrumental “Little India,” featuring tabla and finger cymbals, fits into the greasy vibe.

A ragged, untitled slow blues adds a taste of Janis Joplin to the mix, but a reprise of “Everything,” a duet with her daughter, should have been saved as a rarity for Hopkins’ greatest-hits set. Which, if she maintains the quality found on Free To Go, is all but guaranteed. Whether it's “Everything Money Can’t Buy” (which Bonnie Raitt should look into covering), or a title cut that snakes through nearly seven minutes of thick backwoods underbrush, Hopkins exudes down-home sass.

Blues Review
Issue No. 85
Dec/Jan 2004
Review by Hal Horowitz



- hal horowitz


You can't fake soul.

Luckily, Donna Hopkins doesn't have to. Even more lucky for us, she is willing to share herself with others through music. In an era when music is a Product marketed by Big Business to Consumers, Donna's new CD Free To Go is the sound of one soul singing out in the wilderness, offering communion to anyone willing to listen with an open heart and open mind.

This record is marked by an honesty and depth of feeling that is reminiscent of the great blues masters. Donna cannot be confined to any one style, however, and Free To Go covers everything from Eastern sounds to gospel. The sum total is a dramatic announcement of a unique and refreshing talent, and one that deserves your undivided attention.


- rob johnson


A friend, Tony Galliher (I call him "Tony Gastoney"), whom I met through one of my all-time favorite songwriter venues, Rodi World in Gastonia, NC, made this incredible quilt for me. Last time I played Rodi I took Tony a box of old T-shirts I have collected over the years through my travels, and Tony put them together to create this masterpiece for me. After I was blown away by this beautiful work of art, I couldn’t help but think of all the music lovers I know who have years’ worth of concert T-shirts and shirts collected from various special places and events ... some of you might be interested in having Tony create one for you! Contact Tony directly at mr-tony@carolina.rr.com. I wish you could see the quilt up close because you have to see it in person to believe the stitching that went into it! Thank you Tony!! I love it!! Please click on Read More below to see a close-up photo of the quilt.

- quilt


Discography

Free to Go
DHB Live
guest appearance on
Tinsley Ellis "Hell or High Water" 2002 Telarc

Photos

Bio

For more live footage of the dhb go to www.myspace.com/donnahopkinsband

If you're familiar with the Donna Hopkins Band through live performances or her 2003 debut CD, Free to Go, then you already know she's worthy of attention. Otherwise, her Dynasonic CD release Live is a fine introduction.

Hopkins is legit: She's Alabama-bred, farm-raised in hard times. Her mom performed in rock bands in mini-skirts and go-go boots. Her grandfather's music was a tremendous inspiration.

Hopkins has matured into a genuine triple threat as songwriter, singer and guitarist. As a songwriter (she wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks), Hopkins seasons swampy, Gulf Coast funkiness with angular voicings of extended and suspended chords. Listen for examples on "In Spite of Yourself" or "Don't Ask Why." It's classic tension-and-release with a groove, and with lyrics revealing mileage, honesty and soul. It's survival music you can dance to. The grooves come courtesy of bassist Brian Ashley Jones and drummer Richie Jones, who are in the pocket throughout and who also add convincing harmony and backing vocals.

As a singer, Hopkins has a big, distinctive voice that effectively communicates varied emotions. The acoustic "Everything Money Can Buy," for example, puts you on the front porch on a summer evening, right about dinnertime.

As a guitarist, Hopkins can be at turns raw and articulate. She's her own woman, but think equal parts John Lee Hooker and Billy Gibbons, with a dash of Jimmie Vaughan and Robin Trower circa Bridge of Sighs.

The bottom line: Live sounds great, thanks to Dynasonic Mobile, and is a well-focused snapshot of an artist who has plenty of talent and the courage to be herself.