Lee Hunter is a singer, songwriter, rhythm guitarist, percussionist and pianist with a passion for folklore. From 1992-2014, she worked with guitarist Arvid Smith as the critically acclaimed duo, Tammerlin. Together they placed their own stamp on folk/roots music. What you heard was exceptional guitar work accompanying clever original songs and traditional tunes pulled from the roots of American music.
Hunter is now pursuing her own musical path. Still passionate for the stories this music conveys, she is continuing and building on the sonic history of Tammerlin while exploring new directions and new collaborations. She recently created a chamber work of music and spoken word for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, FL along with Charlotte Mabrey, percussionist and Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Florida and Philip Pan, concert master for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. Hunter’s focus continues to be on performing and writing songs in the Americana genre. She and Walter Parks, longtime guitarist for Richie Havens and a fine songwriter and solo performer, were asked to open a show for Emmylou Harris. Hunter and Parks plan to continue to work together from time to time. Hunter also offers educational music programs for students and two special concerts of music and spoken word-a holiday program,“Wintersong-A Celebration of the Winter Season” and “Civil War & Seafaring Songs”.
Hunter’s love of music of all kinds began early. She grew up in the Maryland suburbs just outside Washington, DC. She began piano lessons at age six and studied classical piano for about ten years. She got her first guitar at age ten and named it “Pete” for Pete Seeger. The writing was on the wall. She sang in her church choir as a child, her high school chorus and musical theatre productions. After receiving a BA in Biology from the University of North Florida, she found the pull of music performance to be irresistible, so she began studying symphonic percussion at UNF with then principal percussionist of the Jacksonville Symphony, Charlotte Mabrey. Through her work with Mabrey, she met Arvid Smith. Hunter and Smith were drawn together by a shared love for folk and world music. The result was a style that transcended the music’s origins while honoring its roots. As Tammerlin took on more and more original material, Hunter was most often the one wielding the pen and performing her songs with a voice that one Florida music magazine called “haunting, passionate, and powerful”.
Tammerlin’s debut CD, the self-released “Roll Down Thy Window, drew critical acclaim from Folk Roots , a prominent European folk and world music magazine, and Dirty Linen , an equally prominent American-based folk and world music publication. The album was featured on the BBC World Service. Folk Roots chose a track from that recording for inclusion on its “Froots #6” compilation CD. The duo continued their trademark now-mystical, now-rootsy sound with their second CD, “Third Weeks A’Lightnin’, (Binky Records)” released in December 1996.
Tammerlin’s third recording, “Wind Horses” (Binky Records 2002) featured a number of Hunter’s stylistically- varied original songs and a number of traditional ballads. The sound prompted Dirty Linen Magazine to call Tammerlin “one of the best kept secrets in America”. “Wind Horses” was followed by “One Kind Favor”, released on their own label, BirdsTale Records, in 2005. On this recording, Hunter really began to stretch as a songwriter and arranger. There’s pop, country, blues, even ragtime, side by side with beautiful arrangements of some traditional fare, including a resurrected ballad from Kentucky, sung by Lee and accompanied by Darol Anger. The London-based world music magazine, fROOTS, proclaimed, “gentle shimmers of rootsy Americana”, and Savannah, GA’s, Connect Savannah, stated, “Lee Hunter’s high, wispy vocals and Arvid Smith’s captivating dobro and guitarwork reference early Richard & Linda Thompson”.
The fifth and final recording, ““No Small Thing”, featured nine of Hunter’s original songs. From the introspective, hook-driven opener “Autumn Refrain” to the bittersweet title song to the hope-filled closing tune “The Last Dance”, beautifully arranged by Darol Anger, her writing proved stronger than ever-lyrical and intelligent, with melodies that stick in your head. Always known for their treatment of traditional songs, the album offers a richly textured reading of “I Once Loved a Lass”, with Smith’s electric and acoustic 12-strings and Darol Anger’s violins swirling around an acoustic bass foundation created by Byron House. In contrast is “Leaves of Life”, a sparse duet where Joe Craven’s haunting solo violin illuminates Hunter’s vocal.
As part of Tammerlin, Hunter toured extensively and found and continues to find her music in demand at venues across the U.S. and in Europe. Tammerlin shared the stage with many artists including The Band, Emmylou Harris, Alex De Grassi, Doc Watson, the Del McCoury Band and Dar Williams. And so the adventure continues. “Tammerlin had a great 20 plus year run. I learned so much and am so grateful for all of the experiences I had during that time,” says Hunter. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter-to learning more and to finding fresh ways to express music through new partnerships.”