Family Band, Posey Hill, Brings Cross-Generational Sounds to Americana Music
By Judea Robinett
Photography by Jon Wisniewski
Doug Burnett and two of his four daughters, Kristian Miller and Erin Wisniewski make up the core of Posey Hill, an “Acousticanna” band based in Donaldson. It’s all in the family now, but this was no Partridge Family experiment. Posey Hill didn’t always know they would become a family band.
“I always thought when my kids got older I would get back into music with my old buddies…But when we started really playing [as Posey Hill] I thought ‘this is my ticket!’ because of course if my girls are involved, I’ve got more support from my wife, than if I had been playin’ with a bunch of guys” he says with a laugh. It wasn’t always sweet music though. “I like to joke,” says Doug, “that the only time there’s harmony between Kristian and Erin is when they are singing.”
Luckily for the Burnett family, while the girls were growing up they did a lot of singing together in school choirs. “We were very different… about the only time we got along is when we were singing” says Kristian, echoing her father, “but I never felt competitive really…We get along better now that we’re grown.” The threesome began singing for fun as something they would do around the house or at family reunions. “We have big family reunions once every two years or so,” says Doug. “I’d get the girls to sing a song or two with me, and everyone always encouraged us to do more.” They performed together publicly after a family member told them to show up at a Bluegrass Festival open mic.
“It was just us three. I wasn’t playing bass yet just my blue acoustic guitar,” says Kristian, “I was nervous for that, but we had a really good response. People loved the singing, and we were invited back after the bigger paid acts played. People stayed to watch us and in the middle of a song, several of the pickers from a couple other bands walked on stage and started playing with us. It was really fun and exciting. We caught the bug.”
After that festival in the fall of 2002, they ordered Kristian an upright bass, and Doug invited a few pickers from his days a musician to join them. In March of 2003, they performed their first official show as “Posey Hill.”
The name is just as familial as the band themselves. “Posey is my mother’s maiden name and not far from where we live and where my wife’s parents live and from where my grandparents grew up, out in the country out here, there was a hill called Posey Hill” says Doug.
Their origin story may be something out of a period novel, but their music is a blend of traditional and contemporary influences. “Our greatest influence of the girls and I singing together, would be the Trio,” says Doug of the perennial classic album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris from 1987. “That was what kind of got us going.” He notes other influences, too. “We can do hardcore bluegrass or do a Bob Dylan song or an original,” says Doug speaking of a typical setlist. Listeners won’t find a lot of current “country” in a Posey Hill set though.
“I’m not a fan of current country…I see some hope like Chris Stapleton, who was in a bluegrass band,” Doug points out, “and Alison Krauss is good, but as far as what’s played on the radio…I’m not a fan.” If Doug could have dinner with any musician past or present though, he say’s it would be Arkansas’ own, Levon Helm.”
For now, he’ll keep playing music with his daughters and eating dinner with them, too. Doug is also grateful that one of his other girls has started getting involved in the family business as a songwriter. “It gives us an opportunity to do things together. We’ve gotten to go to Silver Dollar City and have done some shows out of state. It’s a great family thing.”
Posey Hill keeps it close to home, and you know… that’s okay.
You can catch Doug and the girls performing live at Fall Fest in Hot Springs Village on Oct 29th