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Lui Collins publicity photo by Susan Wilson

Photo by Susan Wilson

Biographical notes

Biographical Notes

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"… one of New England's clearest and most distinctive folk voices, with unusually piercing lyrical insight..." - Hartford Courant

Folk singer/songwriter Lui Collins has been performing, writing and recording for over 40 years, earning international acclaim for her music. Her repertoire, accompanied on tenor ukulele and banjo, ranges from original and traditional folk songs and American standards to bossa nova in the original Brazilian Portuguese. She's made 16 CDs, performed on others' projects, and shared the stage with such folk-world notables as Tom Rush, Bonnie Raitt, and Stan Rogers.

Lui has been hailed by the Boston Herald as a "folksinger for our times" and by the Boston Globe as "one of New England's first and brightest stars." She was voted third most popular performer at the Champlain Valley Festival in 1992, along with Pete Seeger and French Canadian band La Bottine Souriante. Renowned guitarist Dave van Ronk called her "one of the best guitarist-arrangers I have heard in years," and Canadian folk icon Stan Rogers quipped, "Lui sings my songs better than I do!"

Lui playing banjo at a Hilltown Music Together class-photo by Debbie Lusignan

Photo by Debbie Lusignan

Lui has collaborated extensively with renowned author Jane Yolen over the years. In 2018, as Jane Yolen & 3 Ravens - with fiddler Donna Hébert and guitarist Max Cohen - they released a CD entitled The Infinite Dark, featuring recitations and musical settings of Yolen's poems. Lui contributed to 3-part vocal harmonies and played ukulele, banjo, and piano on the album, as well as composing music for many of the songs.

Along with creating playful 4-string arrangements of some favorite original songs, Lui has been exploring the fabulous jazz chords in old American standards and bossa nova on tenor ukulele. Most recently, Lui can be heard with guitarist/Grammy-nominated producer and longtime collaborator Anand Nayak accompanying her in a wide range of styles and languages. Anand not only produced Lui's album Closer, he played on and co-produced all 8 of her Kids' Jam recordings. Their decade plus of creative collaboration is evident in the fluid musical dialogue of their live performance.

In a parallel musical adventure, Collins founded Upside-Up Music and began teaching Music Together classes in 2003. This led to her development of a primarily Kodály-based music curriculum for 5-7-year-olds called Kids' Jam. The curriculum includes 8 seasonal collections of traditional and original songs (each with CD and Songbook), which she uses in her local classes and has also adapted for homeschool use as "Come Jam With Me," making Lui's innovative and engaging Kids' Jam music available to homeschoolers and music and classroom teachers.

Lui's concerts today are as memorable as ever. Whether you've enjoyed her recordings for years or you've just been introduced, there's no better way to experience Lui's music than at a live concert. Both solo and with Anand accompanying her, Lui's concerts are intimate affairs. She interlaces her songs with stories about their background, her life, the weather - like a conversation with an old friend...with music.

Andrew Calhoun of Waterbug Records says, "Lui Collins sings the way people did a great long time ago, before most of us forgot how to breathe." And as guitarist/folksinger/songwriter Geoff Bartley says, "Lui's got the juju!"

From a 1997 article by Lahri Bond in Dirty Linen.

Lui Collins was born in Barre, Vermont and began to play her first gigs in the early Seventies, while she was a student at the University of Connecticut. In the mid-Seventies, Collins began to tour as part of a duo with a young folk singer named Horace Williams, Jr. They played a regular circuit around the best of New England's many folk clubs, and gained much respect for the sense of style and humor they brought to the burgeoning folk community. Collins started out singing covers of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez songs, but quickly started to include music that was written by what were then emerging artists, such as Greg Brown, Julie Snow and Stan Rogers. In fact Rogers, the late great Canadian folk singer, once stated "She sings my songs better than I do."

Released in 1978, Made in New England, Collins' first album on Philo, contained some of her most cherished material for years to come including compositions by Mike Heron, Robin Williamson and others as well as several outstanding originals. Baptism of Fire, released in 1981, was a more refined mix of tunes by fellow songwriters including Brown, Rogers, and Snow as well as Collins' originals "Passion", "Awaiting the Snow", and "January Thaw". Her next album, There's A Light was released on Green Linnet Records in 1985, and completed a trilogy of albums that documented her early career. Produced by ex-Silly Wizard member Johnny Cunningham, the majority of the album contained Collins' originals, with additional material co-written with fantasy/children's book author Jane Yolen ("Ballad of the White Seal Maid"), and a stunning version of Bob Franke's definitive "For Real". Collins' own songs began to deepen in their musical and poetic composition; "Midwinter Night" is a classic example of Collins' seasonal cycle of songs, while "The Enfolding" gracefully blended the sensual with the spiritual.

In 1986 Collins put touring and recording on hold and over the next eight years spent much needed time attending to herself and her young family. But music still called to her like a wild creature in the woods, and by 1993 she had gathered more than enough material for a new album. Moondancer, subtitled "The Journey of the Child Within" was released in 1993 on Collins' own label, Molly Gamblin Music. The album, one of Collins' most intense works, is not without its lighter moments; "Mermaid's Lullabye", (another song co-written with Yolen), and the jubilant title track offset the album's darker moments. A collection of music for children called North of Mars followed in 1995. Though billed as a children's album, there are some lovely songs for people of any age, including "Joyful Noise", "Storyteller", and several more Yolen collaborations.

The opening of 1997 marked yet another new album; Stone By Stone, by the increasingly prolific Collins. The new album weaves together all the best aspects of Collins' previous work, gathering both an excellent group of backing musicians and an outstanding set of new songs, that explore love, friendship, spirituality, and earthly concerns such as her deepening of ties with Native Americans and her work with prisoners.

*from notes by Lahri Bond/Dirty Linen magazine