Ginny Hawker's expressions of vocal honesty and soulfulness are part of the foundation that have united bluegrass, gospel, honky tonk, and old-time music in rural America. In the bluegrass arena that was long dominated by male voices, Hawker expresses deep feelings that share both the sorrows and joys of a simpler life. Singing tenor to the combined rhythms of banjos, mandolins, and fiddles, Hawker blends her words with a tonal truth.
Hawker was influenced over several decades by the songs and sounds of the original Carter Family (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle), often called the first family of country music. She joined with Kay Justice to create several different albums of tribute to the uniqueness of the Carter Family. Signs and Wonders and Pathway to West Virginia laid a foundation for a favorite, Come All You Tenderhearted, released in March 1995 by June Appal. Tracy Schwarz (of New Lost City Ramblers), Hawker's husband and a strong musical companion over the years, provided fiddle and vocals on Come All You Tenderhearted. Hawker, Schwarz, and Justice managed to maintain a style that is reminiscent of their mentor's flavor, a tribute to the truth found in mountain music.
In 1999, Copper Creek released Bristol with Hawker and Justice again offering a vocal tribute to the Carters. A.P. Carter wrote five of the songs and the remaining songs are all part of the Carter repertoire. This was followed in 2000 by Good Songs for Hard Times. The album provided Hawker and Schwarz an opportunity to display perfect harmony as a duo and also have individual solos, with Schwarz providing some of the songwriting.
To welcome the new century, Rounder released Heart of a Singer, a hardcore, mountain bluegrass album that showcased three generations of Appalachia: Hawker, Carol Elizabeth Jones, and Hazel Dickens, each of whom expresses a distinct and highly developed talent. Also in 2001, Hawker sang "Time Is Winding Up" with Jones, and "Old River" with Dickens, on the Rounder compilation O Sister! The Women's Bluegrass Collection. The album is a tribute to the vast contribution women have made to the art of bluegrass. Hawker and Jones also sang "Time Is Winding Up" on another compilation created by Rounder, Blue Trail of Sorrow, which delights in the magical wonder that bluegrass music has given to the world.
Hawker and Schwarz both teach vocal music in Elkins, WV, where they exemplify their belief that it's what happens between the notes that is important. Strongly influenced by her father, Ben Hawker, to express the authenticity of rural American music's life/breath, she clearly lives the life style that she sings about. Her vocal mastery is well used in Letters From My Father, a tribute to his influence. Released in 2001 by Rounder, the 16-track album includes the talents of Darrell Scott (guitar, vocals), Tim O'Brien (acoustic guitar, mandolin, vocals), Ron Stewart (guitar), Dennis Crouch (bass), Dirk Powell (piano), and Kenny Malone (drums). This fuller sound of an all-star band covers the broad ranges from traditional country to classical country, from bluegrass to honky tonk, that Hawker has mastered. ~ Eleanor Ditzel