Tag Archives: Prairie Home Companion

Vocalist Debi Smith, From Soprano To Alto To Soprano

Vocalist Debi Smith started out as a soprano singing in church, but after college she became interested in jazz and started developing her alto range. She and Mary Chapin Carpenter began performing around Washington, DC about the same time, but when Smith’s sister Megan, who is five years younger, came home from college, they started touring together as The Smith Sisters.

Smith is a master of many skills. She is a composer and recording artist whose songs have captured six ASCAP popular music awards and been recorded by such artists as Tom Paxton and Al Petteway. With five solo albums to her credit, she has stashed away many Wammies (Washington Area Music Awards). Her latest double-disc CD, “The Soprano” and “The Soprano Christmas,” highlights the upper register of her three-octave range. In contrast, pop fans around the country know her as one quarter of The Four Bitchin’ Babes, solo artists who write and perform their own witty songs and share others in glorious harmony. She has been heard often as both soloist and ensemble member on national radio and telecasts, among them Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered, PBS specials, CMT’s New Country, CBS Sunday Morning and Good Morning America.

Touring with TFBB has occupied a large chunk of Smith’s life since 1994. Next month they head for Florida and will be on the road until May, followed by the gigs at the shore during the summer.

Whether singing country, pop, folk, or jazz, Smith receives raves for her solo appearances accompanying herself on guitar. She is also a master of the bodhran, an Irish hand drum, which she played on the main theme song in Ken Burns’ “The National Parks” PBS documentary. She loves the bodhran and integrates it with most of the songs she writes.

Writing is cathartic for her and a way to honor her family. She has penned songs about her son, who suffers from autism, and songs about her parents, such as “My Mother’s Hands” and “My Father Was a Quiet Man.”

Nothing pleases her more than having someone come up with tears in their eyes and tell her how much her music has uplifted them.