Deep in the heart of southern Appalachia, sounds from the Mississippi delta echo through the lush mountain air, haunting the fretboard of Heidi Holton’s well-worn Gibson guitar. Original and fresh, traditional with a contemporary flair, Heidi is turning heads with her mastery of the music of the deep south. Her songwriting shines like the sweet glistening sweat on the brow of a Piedmont preacher behind the pulpit on a sultry Sunday afternoon. Following in the footsteps of guitar-slingers like Memphis Minnie and Reverend Gary Davis, Heidi Holton is making a name for herself in the international blues community.
A 15 year old Heidi found a copy of Hot Tuna’s first album in her dad’s record collection, and was so inspired by the elegant fingerstyle blues guitar of the legendary Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane) that she bought a $60 guitar from a drug store in Ducktown, TN and began to hone her skills. When an opportunity to study with Jorma arose a decade later, Holton strapped an acoustic guitar to the back of her motorcycle and headed north from New Orleans to Ohio. She found a mentor and kindred spirit in Jorma and quickly became an accomplished finger picker and slide guitar player. With her musical skills on a new level, Holton recorded her darkly seductive debut album, “Mockingbird Blues” in 2016.
It wasn't long before people began to take notice - including the iconic blues woman and national treasure Rory Block, who produced Heidi’s sophomore release. “Why Mama Cries” (released in 2018) includes Heidi’s damn near definitive version of the standard “You Got To Move,” and positively brilliant Mississippi Fred McDowell inspired original, “Hardest Card To Play;” the whole album is a stunning step forward. Rory must’ve thought so too, because the project forged a friendship that led to a whirlwind year of snowy road trips across the USA and into Canada. By the end of their latest wander, Heidi had enough new material to begin the writing and recording process on her upcoming album, “Black Strap Molasses,” which was written, recorded, and produced at Rory’s home studio between their adventures together.
Heidi doesn’t perform so much as she casts a spell on her audience. There’s some serious voodoo going on in her live shows as she sways and moves to the sweet sting of her acoustic slide, raising a hand in the air and stomping her foot. She holds the crowd in that raised hand; you could hear a pin drop. She’s got them.
Popular demand keeps Heidi busy playing about 150 shows a year to a wide variety of audiences. She recently completed a four week tour in Italy, and plans to perform in the UK in the summer of 2019. She has opened for Jorma Kaukonen, Rory Block, and Roy Bookbinder and is a regular performer at the Arts and Minds Festival at the Fur Peace Ranch. In the words of her friend and mentor Jorma: “People often ask me if I ever worry about the future of our music. With artists like Heidi… the future is safe.”