The folk traditions of Newfoundland are preserved through the music of Jean Hewson and Christina Smith. With a repertoire that includes many traditional tunes collected by Hewson's husband, Bill, and songs that Smith learned from folksingers Frank Maher and John Joe Pigeon, the duo has garnered acclaim from the folk community. Their debut album, Like Ducks, was nominated for a NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Distributors) award and received a gold medal from Crossroads magazine as Best Roots/Traditional Album of 1998. According to Dirty Linen, "there's no better pair of musicians to have around if you want a lively set of tunes and traditional songs." Playing together since 1985, Hewson and Smith made their collaboration official a year later. By then, both had established their reputation as virtuoso musicians.
A native of St. John's, Smith was classically trained as a cellist and learned the intricacies of Newfoundland's fiddle tradition. A summer job with the folklore department of Memorial University enabled her to spend time with Newfoundland's leading traditional musicians, including the late fiddler Emile Benoit. Together with Jim Payne, she performed in the Canadian Pavilion at Expo '92 in Seville, Spain. She released a solo album, Fiddle Me This, co-produced and accompanied by Hewson, in 1995.
A classically trained pianist, rhythm guitarist, and vocalist, Hewson previously performed with mid-'80s folk groups Barkin Kettle, Tuckmore, Sub-Sisters, and Strings Attached and was a member of Sweet Absalone, a traditional band that she shared with Smith, Fergus O'Byrne, and Jim Payne. She reached out to other musical genres with a country band, Saddle Sorority, and a rock group, This Side Up. She developed her approach to rhythm guitar as an accompanist for such Newfoundlandian fiddlers as Benoit and Rufus Guinchard. Hewson released a solo album, Early Spring, in 1992.
Both Hewson and Smith are trained teachers of the Suzuki method of music instruction. Smith has conducted workshops in Newfoundland's instrumental music at the Sound Symposium and the Sidmouth Folk Festival in England. She serves as director of the Step Fiddlers, a 25-piece group of musicians aged six to 19. Their debut album, Galing for a Storm, was released in 2000. Hewson and Smith performed at a Canadian showcase at the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis in February 1997. They toured the East Coast of the United States two years later. During the summer of 1999, the duo joined with former Figgy Duff accordion player Frank Maher to perform at folk festivals in Vancouver, Calgary, and Winnipeg. ~ Craig Harris