Living along a river, one comes to appreciate the sound of authentic, heart-felt folk music. Brenda Linton's album, THE SECRET, thoroughly captures that grass-root, independent sound that the music industry so badly needs in the 21st century, like one would expect to hear being picked on the front porch of an old filling station. Listening, one is transported, by Linton's melodic voice, back to a time when the world was truer to itself and music was judged by talent rather then fashion. THE SECRET lulls the listener with the massage of Linton's voice and involves a basic sweetness and truth from which the mainstream has diverged. It is an album and a sound welcome when one finds him or herself by a quaint fire, alone or with close company, with nature, in that serene state that is so difficult to find on the radio. - Dan Parsons, Washington Daily News Everyone has heard a song that reaches a certain place inside and helps them make sense of the world. Brenda Linton writes that kind of song. "There are a lot of secrets that people hold, both good and bad," explains Linton. "If you dare to reveal your own secrets, then the listener finds it easier to identify with your song and with you as an artist." As the daughter of rural Southern parents reared in poverty, Brenda Linton became aware at a young age of her mother's dreams for her - that she would have red hair and would sing and dance like Shirley Temple. Today, although the petite redhead has some great moves on the dance floor, she is best known for a voice so pure and melodic that fans have dubbed her the "Carolina Nightingale." Born in Washington, North Carolina, Linton says she was nurtured as a child by "a passel of kind-hearted women, including my mother, grandmother, maternal aunts, and housekeepers who treated me as their own." Her mother overcame childhood polio to train as a registered nurse and began working at the county hospital when Linton was still an infant. Raised in a Baptist orphanage, her father was a major source of strength and understanding in later life. But in her early years, his work as a master plasterer frequently took him away from home, even to the island of Bermuda. "Part of my dad's compensation was a month in paradise for my mom and me," says Linton of the experience, "and I guess my love of the road began there." Although Linton remembers hearing lots of music during her early childhood, her formal education began at the age of eight when her parents bought her a Wurlitzer spinet and a set of classical piano books. She demonstrated a quick aptitude for music and, encouraged by her teachers, took top honors in juried piano competitions at the nearby university, and won singing parts in school musicals. By adolescence, Linton had developed a list of favorite singers (Perry Como, Paul McCartney, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell) whose influence would later emerge in her unique vocal style. In high school, she taught herself to play guitar and formed a duo with a girlfriend that expanded into a folk trio called the New Horizon Singers. By her mid-teens, Linton was performing regularly in college coffee houses. After graduation, she joined an established folk-rock group called Warm. Linton's voice as well as the innovative harmonies and original songs provided by the other three members set the band apart from most local acts in eastern North Carolina. During her two years with Warm, she performed throughout the southeast at music clubs, rock festivals, and college venues, and opened concerts for recording artists such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Rare Earth. When Warm broke up, Linton decided to pursue her childhood dream of living in Europe. She traveled in Switzerland, Italy, and France before settling in London. She established a musical relationship with another songwriter and recorded demos that were nibbled at by a British record label but the deal eventually fell through. Meanwhile, she supported herself by working in pubs, Carnaby Street clothes shops, and betting establishments. While in London, Linton also tried some new directions which were short-lived, including singing with a heavy metal band. Homesick and lonely, she turned to songwriting. "During that period, I wrote songs to try to understand myself better," Linton recalls, "and I wrote songs about stories I heard from the people I met." One such story from an Irish friend about a supernatural encounter would later become the title song for her 2005 debut album, THE SECRET. Recorded and co-produced by John Plymale at Overdub Lane in Durham, NC, THE SECRET contains six original tracks that demonstrate Linton's skill at penning lyrics and music that stir both the heart and mind. 'Bargain Love' and 'The Good Life' provide opposite views of the same phenomenon - how living a borrowed life only alienates us from ourselves and others. The jazzy 'Quiet Love' testifies to the wisdom of finding our own answers rather than relying on popular culture. "Warriors" and "Still in This World" are perhaps the most personal songs on the album and movingly express the depth of Linton's sorrow at losing her mother to breast cancer in 2004 as well as the belief that there is still much to recommend the world - a belief made more poignant by her own triumph over the same disease. The tune for "Warriors" was written by Thomas Walsh, a gifted composer and multi-instrumentalist living outside Dublin. "I happened upon his lovely melody, 'Innisheer,' and knew it would be the perfect complement for my lyrics," says Linton. "When I called him to get permission to use the tune, he was at home with the flu; but he was very gracious and we found we had a lot in common. Music often allows perfect strangers to quickly get down to the important stuff." Since the singer-songwriter returned to the United States, she has performed and recorded with a variety of musicians and producers in several locales, including Nashville. For over a decade, she was a member of the Angelettes, a three-woman vocal group whose harmonies brought much delight to listeners as well as the singers themselves. One of her biggest thrills has been finding opportunities to collaborate with her brother and younger son, talented musicians in their own right. In 2009, Linton began a collaboration with musicians in North Carolina's Triangle area to record a new album of mostly original songs called SPARKLE PLENTY. In the interim between her first and second albums, Linton has honed her narrative songwriting skills, and she takes the listener on a journey of diverse moods and locales ranging from an 18th century rice plantation to a late-night bar where regret hangs in the air like smoke. Co-produced by Rick Lassiter, SPARKLE PLENTY also showcases a traditional ballad from Newfoundland and a poignant song by Laura Silvestri about a young woman's search for the grandmother she never met. The album's first track, 'No Reason at All,' is the account of two people who learn the depths of their capacity to love through the trial and error of long-term relationship. This universal story has been turned into a music video by independent film maker, Michael Babbitt, and can be viewed via YouTube and Linton's website. Linton is grateful for the friends, fans, and talented fellow musicians who continue to support her, and feels lucky to have been given the resources to write, record, and perform music that she believes in. "My records are really about people I know or have read about in newspapers or historical accounts," she says. "All of us have experiences that are very private and only surface indirectly. And it's that mysterious territory that I love to explore."
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