From the recording Homage 1
Lyrics by Travis Hansen and Reggie Houston.
Music by Reggie Houston and Janice Scroggins.
Reggie Houston - soprano sax
Zena Moses - vocals
Janice Scroggins - keyboards
Reinhardt Melz - drums
Ben Jones - electric bass
Sedell Jones - keyboard synthesizer and flute synthesizer
On the surface, Ms. Killona Greenhill is about my great grandmother, Martha Johnson, and Greenhill Cemetery in which she's buried. I loved my great grandmother and she was a big part of my life even though she died when I was just a child. She was a proud woman and would often tell people that she was born free-- I think it made her feel a little bit better than other folks she knew who were born into slavery. She chewed tobacco and smoked a pipe and lived off in this little shack with a wood stove and no electricity or running water-- my parents couldn't stand it, but to me it was the hippest place in the world! My great grandmother remembered when Killona was just the most picturesque and pastoral slice of the antebellum south. On my last day in New Orleans, before moving to Portland, I drove out to see her and take some pictures of that quaint little cemetery, now wedged between dirt-gray and ugly industrial buildings and even a nuclear plant. Oh if my great grandmother could see it today, she'd wonder how this could possibly represent the great progress that had been so touted in her time. And that's what got me wanting to write a song not just about the juxtaposition of past and present, but a song that really exemplifies the merging of the old with the new. So I sat down with this talented young musician I know, Travis Hansen, and I showed him the pictures, told him about my great grandmother and asked him to write lyrics for me. Travis is a rapper, guitarist and percussionist, and he immediately understood what I wanted the lyrics to convey and wrote this great song, but I just couldn't quite get it to fit with the music... until I surprised my daughter Zena, who was visiting me in Portland. She thought I was taking her out to get something to eat but I took her to the studio and gave her Travis' lyrics and she just laid it down with her own gorgeous, modern vocal style and we ended up with this cross-generational collaboration that came together so beautifully, and to me is the perfect representation of the old married to the new. Now when I listen to the song I picture my great grandmother walking down the lane as proud as ever, but not old, naaaw.... Now she's a fox, a young 21st century woman of means, dressed to the nines with her hair all done up. Oh Miss Killona Greenhill is a fine woman indeed!