Upon discovering Ari Hest’s song “Strangers Again,” singer Judy Collins knew she wanted to record it with him for her new album. “Silver Skies Blue” features duets with Mr. Hest as well as such special guests as Jackson Browne, Don McLean, Jeff Bridges and Willie Nelson.
“I discovered Ari three or four years ago and loved his voice,” Miss Collins, 77, told The Washington Times. “I’ve never found anyone else I could sing with so comfortably. Writing the songs together for the album was a natural progression.”
As part of a nationwide and international tour, Miss Collins stops in Leesburg, Virginia, Friday to herald the June release of “Silver Skies Blue.” Co-written and recorded with the Bronx-based singer-songwriter Mr. Hest, the album of 11 songs celebrates the electric pairing of her melodic soprano and his rich baritone.
Miss Collins’ musical journey owes much to Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who was unknown to many when a mutual friend suggested they get together. Both are creative lyricists and lifelong social activists, so when they met and he encouraged her to write her own music, she took his advice and soon realized that theirs was “a match made in heaven.”
“He was an amazing man,” she said of Mr. Cohen. “I learned from him the importance of being prompt and making every moment useful” and also of the need to constantly practice.
Miss Collins’ rich repertoire harks back to her 1967 album “Wildflowers,” which includes her Grammy Award-winning cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” three of her own compositions and three by Mr. Cohen.
“I have not a clue why my cover of Joni’s song was so successful, but I loved it the first time I heard it, and I love her version as well,” she said of her masterful rendition of the iconic tune.
Miss Collins’ output during the past half-century has ranged from her early love, folk music, to rock, show tunes, standards and original songs that reflect her classical background and mastery of the language of song. Her lengthy list of accomplishments includes more than 50 albums and seven books, among them two memoirs, a novel and one for children.
Miss Collins relishes performing so much so that last year she sang 129 concerts and always organizes her own travel routine down to the smallest detail.
“I carry food on the plane, meditate and devote much of the time to reading and writing,” she said. “I come from a family of readers and always wanted to write the great book,” she said, adding that her nose is currently stuck in a collection of Iris Murdock’s letters.
“From the age of 15, I’ve kept journals, but today Facebook has taken me away from writing journals,” she said of the advent of social media. “It allows me to connect with my fans so we can talk and discuss things. For instance, when I quit drinking Diet Coke, my lifelong migraine headaches ended. I had a huge amount of feedback from that.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: An Evening with Judy Collins
WHERE: Tally Ho Theatre, 19 West Market St., Leesburg, Virginia, 20176
WHEN: Friday at 8:30 p.m., doors open at 7:30 p.m.
INFO: Reserved seat tickets $59 by calling 703/777-1665 or going to TallyHoleesburg.com. Day-of-show tickets $70, VIP pass $150, which includes after-show reception with Miss Collins.