Do you know what your neighbor has been up to?

Ms. Smith brings her heretofore secret sister act to town this Saturday

By Kendra Hendren
Special to the Rappahannock News

Do you know what your neighbor has been up to? Specifically, your neighbor Megan Smith. Well? Do you?

You think you know a gal. Megan and her late husband, Proctor Jones, moved to Rappahannock in 2000 following many weekends spent at a friend’s house in Sperryville. I’ve read articles she’s written as a contributor to the Rappahannock News. I’ve benefited from her tireless hours of volunteer work with the RAAC film festival, artists’ tour and community theater productions.

And now this!

Debi (left) and Megan Smith perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Little Washington Theatre.Courtesy photo
Debi (left) and Megan Smith perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Little Washington Theatre.

Apparently, it all started 35 years ago. The Smith Sisters, aka Debi and Megan, became a country-folk musical duo. As Debi tells it, she didn’t even know her little sister could sing until Megan came home from college and joined her in a duet. The first song they ever performed together was a song Debi wrote called “Hello, Mister,” which Megan says “we later made fun of behind closed doors, changing the words to ‘Hello, Mister, would you like to buy my sister? I’ll sell her to you cheap, ’cause she is a real creep!'”

Since then, this local folk act has shared billing with artists like Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Ricky Skaggs, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Chet Atkins and Loretta Lynn. Megan said the great thing about being “on the road” is not only the performing, but the off-time touring around the country. “We saw almost every nook and cranny of this beautiful country of ours — much more than most U.S. citizens — and actually retired not one but two vans with over 200,000 miles on each,” she says.

Emmylou Harris! Loretta Lynn!

Debi sings lead vocals, plays guitar and bodhran (Irish hand drum) and generally plays straight man to Megan, the duo’s electric bassist. Between the two of them, the sisters play more than a dozen instruments. The Smith’s warmth and humor shines through a blend of original, traditional and country-folk tunes brilliantly. But it is the sound of their voices in harmony that makes fans like Garrison Keillor “weep,” the renowned NPR host told his audience.

Garrison Keillor! (Okay, I’ll shut up. . .)

Megan and Debi have played at The Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap Farm Park, Epcot Center, The Bottom Line in New York, the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Birchmere (tonight, actually). They’ve even appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” “Mountain Stage,” “Prairie Home Companion,” “Radio Smithsonian,” “Voice of America” and Country Music Television (CMT).

For years, they toured with their mother and father, David and Vivian, and even with Debi’s son Lee when he was a baby. It is this family unity that endeared the Smith Sisters to another family act, the legendary Doc and Merle Watson. Merle, who was a mentor to the Smiths before his untimely death in 1985, produced the duo’s first two albums.

Since 1994, Debi Smith has been performing at theaters and concert halls around the U.S. with the musical group The Four Bitchin’ Babes, with whom she’s recorded seven albums. Megan Smith is a filmmaker and president of WayMark Productions, and is currently producing a documentary film on alternative cancer therapies. Debi lives in the D.C. metro area, while Megan lives right here in Rappahannock County.

Megan added that they want to thank Nancy Raines for having Debi and her at the Theatre. “It slipped out one day that I used to sing and tour, and she was on me like mud on a whistle pig to get them a CD! Guess the postage paid off; we’re thrilled to play in Little Washington, with Grammy-winning guitarist Al Petteway.”

So now you know what your neighbor’s been up to. . .

“Like the best sibling groups, the Smiths have been singing together for so long that their voices merge in effortless and graceful harmony.” — The Washington Post

Better pick up a ticket for the show this Saturday (Sept. 24, visit littlewashingtontheatre.com for details). Gotta keep an eye on your neighbor . . .

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