Sweet & Toxic is the debut EP from Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp, a Washington, DC, based duo who write original songs in the Traditional Country and Appalachian style. Jeni was born in the coal mining town of Richlands in Southwestern Virginia. She spent summers with her MawMaw up around the Jewell Ridge Coal Camp and spent the school years moving with her family from city to city, from Boston to Nashville, Las Cruces to Omaha. Billy is a Baltimore native who grew up dreaming of hills and hollers while learning to play guitar on the front steps of a little white church in Oella, a Baltimore community of mill workers transplanted from Appalachia. Together, Jeni and Billy share a love of songwriting and, in particular, a love of Country music with its stories of true life blues and unexpected grace. The duo traces their influences in the music of Traditional Country artists Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hazel Dickens, as well as in the music of Appalachian Ballad and Old-time singers Ginny Hawker, Texas Gladden and the Carter Family. Jeni’s haunting and mournful vocal style is complimented by Billy’s edgy instrumental work. His flat-pick and fingerstyle playing combines syncopation and melodicism to convey the mood of the songs. He also adds character to the performance with his aggressive and reckless harmony vocals. Jeni’s dark and striking lyrics draw you into captivating narratives of heartache and hard living. Images of coal & crowns, trash & trailers, and glass and gasoline recur, and Jesus and the Great Speckled Bird are never far off.
If you liked Walk the Line you'll love Jeni and Billy. Our own Johnny and June. --Steve Key, Songwriter and Promoter
Jeni and Billy have such a great handle on that old style of stuff...They’re the real deal. --Michael Patrick Smith, Artistic Director, The Living Room Company
Jeni and Billy are found people. --Rebecca Hoffberger, Director and Founder of the American Visionary Art Museum