"I guess what I want people to know is that, for me, it's about the
songs, each different, each a well-thought-out message, each a labor of
love," says Bernice Lewis. And in her tender evocations of the heart, in
her explorations of the struggling soul, and in her tales highlighting the
victories and defeats of everyday life, Bernice Lewis has more than earned
her stellar reputation as a songwriter's songwriter. Carving her niche in
the new-folk idiom while drawing on traditional folk, blues, pop, country,
jazz and world-beat influences, Lewis's carefully-honed songcraft and
musicianship and her strikingly heartfelt vocals have made her a favorite
of fans from Berkeley to Boston and everywhere in between.
A fixture on the coffeehouse circuit, contemporary-folk radio, and at the
major folk festivals, Lewis -- who studied vocal improvisation with Bobby
McFerrin and guitar technique with Alex DeGrassi and Guy van Duser -- has
been a featured performer on National Public Radio's "Mountain Stage"
program and a finalist in the 1987 New Folk Songwriting Contest at the
prestigious Kerrville (Texas) Folk Festival. Her new ballad, "Bridges That
Hold," was included in the PBS-TV "Lifelines" documentary starring Peter,
Paul and Mary.
H ailed variously as "a rising star" by the Washington Post and "in the
forefront of her generation of singer-songwriters" by SingOut! magazine,
Lewis has garnered the greatest acclaim of her career for her most recent
album, "Isle of Spirit" (Sanctuary/Blue Bhikku). "Ambitious....her best
album to date," said the Boston Phoenix. "Wonderful songs....an instant
classic," declared Alan Rowoth, moderator of the Internet's influential
Folk_Music Digest. "A musical and lyrical tour de force that should propel
Lewis to the uppermost ranks of the new-folk crowd," proclaimed the
Berkshire Eagle about "Isle of Spirit,'' which was produced by Adam
Rothberg, best known for his work on Dar Williams's much-acclaimed debut,
"The Honesty Room."
F or the last 10 years, Lewis -- a native of Boston -- has been based in
the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. For most of that time home
was a wildlife sanctuary, whose influence is felt in songs like "When the
Rivers Had No Names" and "Bridges That Hold." Lewis now lives in
Williamstown, Mass., where she is an adjunct member of the faculty at
Williams College. Lewis is also on the faculty at the Omega Institute in
Rhinebeck, N.Y., where she teaches songwriting, singing and yoga.
Lewis has been said to "elevate the experiences of everyday life to an art
form." She sings from a woman's perspective with wit and eloquence in
distinctive, powerful vocals that have been described as "utterly and
uniquely her own." With attention equally divided among matters of the
earth, matters of the soul and matters of the heart, Lewis has staked out
as her territory the sum of contemporary existence, and by giving so
generously of herself she helps illuminate the lives of others. As one
critic wrote, "Lewis has assembled a deep repertoire of diverse and
occasionally profound songs with which she will undoubtedly be moving,
entertaining and delighting audiences for years to come."