From Emporia Gazette Jan 19-20, 2013:

Governor Names Elmdale's Annie Wilson
"Flint Hills Balladeer"

“The Flint Hills are worth singing about!” claims singer-songwriter
Annie Wilson of rural Elmdale, who was named “Flint Hills Balladeer”
in a Certificate of Recognition presented to her Friday by Governor
Sam Brownback at the Kansas Flint Hills Symposium in Rock
Springs.  The certificate states the award is in recognition of her
“endeavors to share the beauty of the Kansas Flint Hills through
words and music, and to inspire an abiding love for the Kansas Flint
Hills.”

As part of the growing culture of live music in the Flint Hills, Wilson
and her band Tallgrass Express have delivered over 200
performances of “Flint Hills music” in the area since 2004, and she
has written over 40 songs about life in the Flint Hills, many of which
have been recorded on the group’s three CDs.  

Song titles include, “Clean Curve of Hill Against Sky,” “Last Stand of
the Tallgrass Prairie,” “My Diamond Creek Cowboy,” “Big Bluestem:  
King of the Prairie,” “Stopping by the Homestead Ruins,” and
“Runaway Nell.”  

Of the Flint Hills Balladeer designation, Wilson says, “I am absolutely
thrilled to receive this honor,” and she thanks all those who
spearheaded this effort.   In a letter of support, author and Flint Hills
expert Jim Hoy wrote, “Annie’s music goes deep into the soul of the
Flint Hills…and carries others along with it.”  Director of the Flint Hills
Discovery Center Bob Workman claims, “Annie is truly a treasure of
Kansas and the Flint Hills.” Marty White of Symphony in the Flint Hills
stated Wilson “articulates the Flint Hills ranching culture” and
“conveys life and love in our rural communities.”

Elmdale Mayor Josh Simmons wrote, “Annie has a rare ability to
translate her love of the plants and animals, the weather, and the
people, into songs,” and he said Wilson and her band are
“exceptional ambassadors of the Flint Hills.”  Lynn Smith, Director of
the Pioneer Bluffs Foundation, thanked Wilson for writing “The Story
of Pioneer Bluffs,” a ballad about the history and mission of that
historic ranch near Matfield Green.

Other endorsements came from the Chase County Commission, the
mayors of Cottonwood Falls and Strong City, and the Chase County
Chamber of Commerce.  

Instead of seeking a broader, national market by writing songs with
more generic features, Wilson says, “I find it more interesting to first
seek out the fundamental messages of this particular place—the
Flint Hills, and then discover the universal themes contained here.”  
She says “those who appreciate the Flint Hills are exactly the people
I hope to reach” and claims this audience is expanding, as “more
people discover this region and its fascinating stories.”  

Also in the Tallgrass Express String Band are Charlie Laughridge of
Council Grove on fiddle, Carl Reed of Manhattan on bass, and new
member Jim Versch on mandolin following recently retired banjo
player Loren Ratzloff.  Wilson said she “deeply appreciates” all her
band members’ support of her songwriting and their “incredible
talent” in creating and performing musical arrangements.  After a
brief transition period, the group looks forward to producing another
CD of original Flint Hills songs.  

Linda Craghead, Assistant Secretary of the Dept. of Wildlife, Parks
and Tourism, organized Friday’s Flint Hills Symposium including the
governor’s awards presentation ceremony.   The “Flint Hills
Balladeer” proclamation effort was originally conceived and
implemented by James and Elaine Adkins, and Sue and Monty Smith
of the Emma Chase Café, all from Cottonwood Falls.  Wilson has
been a long-time participant in the Emma Chase’s Friday night jam
sessions - now named one of the “Eight Wonders of Kansas
Customs.”  Wilson says it was as a direct result of the energy and
networking of these gatherings that the band was formed and her
songwriting began.

Wilson and her husband John operate the Five Oaks Ranch west of
Elmdale, where they raised their three daughters Katie, Emily, and
Julia. Wilson is also a Language Arts instructor at Emporia High
School and earlier managed a Flint Hills rancher-owned grassfed
beef marketing cooperative.

For more information, see the band’s website, www.tallgrassexpress.
com.