Artist Spotlight: Algia Mae Hinton
inArtist Storyon December 17, 2015
Early in Music Maker’s history, blues legend Taj Mahal traveled to visit. My wife Denise and I were renting an old farmhouse in Pinnacle, NC that was both our home and Music Maker’s headquarters. It was not fancy, in fact it was very rural, but it worked for us; during his visit Taj graciously slept on a pallet on the floor of our spare room. We spent each day of his visit bringing Music Maker artists over to the house to record with him. Macavine Hayes, Cool John Ferguson, Etta Baker, John Dee Holeman, and one beautiful spring morning Algia Mae Hinton arrived with her old friend Lightnin’ Wells. Taj played an upright bass, Lightnin’ was on the harp and Algia Mae sang and played her 12-string guitar. It was one of our most incredible jam sessions. Taj still exclaims to this day, “Algia Mae plays deep in the pocket!” referring to her impeccable blues timing.
Algia Mae grew up as an agricultural worker in the flat farmland East of Raleigh, NC. She learned the blues from her mother, and throughout her life Algia has played and written incredible songs with titles such as, “Cook Corn Bread for your Husband, Biscuits for your Outside Man!” or “If You Kill Me A Chicken, Save Me the Head!” Algia is pure, deep American roots music, a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother of the blues. Despite tremendous hardships all around her, Algia’s optimistic, hopeful personality and her deep religious faith keep her spirits high.
Algia Mae is the kind of artist and person who Music Maker is extremely proud to have been able to partner with since our founding in 1994. Over the years we have helped her secure innumerable performances, gifted her a banjo, and for 16 years we’ve made sure she has needed medicine each month. Besides all these small things that have indeed made everyday life, especially in her elder years, a bit easier, what really has been important to Algia has been friendship. I visited Algia recently and all she wanted from us were t-shirts of the other artists and CDs of their music. She called after I left to inquire again, “Tim, you said you were going to send me a video of the Snake Lady [Willa Mae Buckner]; wow, I love to see her with her snakes. I’m so sad that Captain Luke passed; make sure you send me both of his CDs. I really miss Etta [Baker] I want to give her CD to a friend of mine.”
The most important and joyful part of our work is creating a community of peers. Artists that have spent their lifetimes treasuring and nourishing archaic musical traditions from the Deep South, while often isolated in their own communities. Through Music Maker, artists from across these traditions can meet, share stories and songs, play together and learn from each other. Deep, lasting friendships are created that truly change lives, and that is no more apparent than during the Holiday Season. It is truly a joyous thing to behold.