Kansas City: Song Series #9

“How do you combine 26 different letters to change a person’s breathing?”
–Bret Anthony Johnston

This was my fave quote from the Luther College Writers Festival in Iowa last weekend, where I got to hear hearty & inspiring talks by the writer above, plus Erik Larson, Charles Baxter, and Jane Hamilton, and panels moderated by Keith Lesmeister (whose book is coming out this year! Look for it!).

The bonus to any writer’s conference is making some music with my soul-brother-the-poet Eli Burrell, who happened to be one of the presenters at Luther. We’re cooking up some new songs to play, but lately I like this one that we recorded at some AWP or another.

“Kansas City”

(vocals & guitar, Eli Burrell; vocals & viola, Jen Hinst-White; lyrics, Bob Dylan; music, Marcus Mumford)

Read More

Song Series #8: Innisfree


A setting of Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” to the tune of the Irish song “Charming Lovely Ann” (from Dan Milner’s Irish Ballads and Songs of the Sea). Sung in my kitchen, where most of my singing happens.

Read More

Song Series #7: Wild Horses

The nights are cricketful lately, savory fire in the good clean air. September, you just beg a backyard fire and making some music with my love.

I asked Rob for “Wild Horses” and he went and learned it that very day. The children slept upstairs and we sat out back and made this little recording.


By the way, here is the outtake, attempted BEFORE bedtime, which features a cameo commentary from our five-year-old.

Read More

Song Series #5 and #6: Sarah and No Surprises

A couple of sad songs for summer’s end. And a benediction on the cusp of fall: May your September be savory, refreshing all that needs refreshing.

PS These were recorded on an iPhone… after practicing them, oh, three times or so. It’s music for the joy of it.


(Bob Dylan)
Vocals and guitar: Eli Burrell
Vocals and viola: Jen Hinst-White


“No Surprises” (Radiohead)
Vocals and guitar: Eli Burrell
Vocals and viola: Jen Hinst-White

Read More

Song Series #4: Gabriel’s Message


A little musical Christmas present. Singing here with the poet Elijah Burrell, my soul-brother-in-song. Enjoy.

Read More

Song Series #3: Little Beggar Man




Viola and voice: Jen Hinst-White.
Coos and grunts:
Milo Hinst, one month old.

I first learned “Little Beggar Man” at age 18, from a Clancy Brothers cassette that I rewound and rewound on the drive from New York to Bennington, Vermont.

I loved it because it was fast and rattling with life; and in learning to sing it, I discovered I had an odd knack for memorizing long strings of words. This seemed a sort of useless ability until I discovered that memorizing poetry (including sacred poetry, like the Psalms) allowed it to settle deep into my muscle and blood and, with time, to alter me.

“Little Beggar Man” is good for live performing, with all its rowdy energy, but in the past few years it’s become special to me for other reasons–soul reasons.

Read More