Here's how the Simple Gifts website describes their music and the individual artists...
Drawing on an impressive variety of ethnic folk styles, this award-winning duo plays everything from lively Irish jigs and down-home American reels to hard-driving Klezmer frailachs and haunting Gypsy melodies, spicing the mix with the distinctive rhythms of Balkan dance music, the lush sounds of Scandinavian twin fiddling, and original compositions written in a traditional style.
Combining tradition with innovation, Simple Gifts creates some of the finest arrangements in folk music today: swing fiddle creeps into a Romanian dance, spoons show up in an Irish reel, and a blues lick introduces a Klezmer melody.
Linda Littleton and Karen Hirshon switch with ease among fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, guitjo, recorders, bowed psaltery, hammered dulcimer, baritone fiddle, guitar, and percussion.
Simple Gifts is frequently complimented on their stage presence, which is warm, personal, and accented with humor. These women deliver their music with rare intensity and contagious enthusiasm. It’s obvious that Simple Gifts loves the music they play and knows how to share their excitement with the audience.
Simple Gifts founding member Linda Littleton began her musical studies with classical violin lessons at age seven. Over the years, she has studied with Joanne Zagst Feldman, Ray Montoni, and Geoffrey Michaels. As a student at Princeton University, Linda majored in philosophy, with a minor in music and a specialty of Philosophy of Music. She has a strong background as a classical violinist, having served as Principal Second Violin in the Nittany Valley Symphony. In addition to violin, Linda plays hammered dulcimer, bowed psaltery, 5-string banjo, and recorders.
Karen Hirshon was raised in a family that emphasized church music, and she grew up singing and easily harmonizing hymns. At age 10, she began violin lessons, and three years later, her fascination with blues and American folk music lead her to study folk guitar. As a student at Grinnell College in Iowa, Karen designed her own specialty “Traditional Music in American Culture” within the field of American Studies, combining history, anthropology, and music. She studied and was influenced by ragtime, classical, American string band music, African drumming, blues, gospel, and jazz. During the 1970’s, Karen toured nationally with the bluegrass band Whetstone Run and helped found the American old-time group, Rustical Quality String Band, with which she has released two albums. Over the years, Karen has picked up baritone fiddle, mandolin, banjolin, banjo-guitar, and a variety of percussion instruments.