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Bentley’s Bandstand: May 2015
Beth McKee, Sugarcane Revival. When it comes to women singers in the South right now, it would be hard to beat Beth McKee. She’s been running the Mississippi-New Orleans highway long enough to know all the right stops and starts, and where the musical mojo is buried. McKee also isn’t afraid to wade into the swamps to find the heart and soul of that sound.
On Sugarcane Revival, she’s performed the admirable feat of squeezing out sparks all along this journey, and also roping in enough uptown grooves to make an album that can appeal to everyone — kind of like if Laura Nyro had been roommates with Carole King and Bonnie Raitt on Decatur Street in the French Quarter during the ‘70s. These are songs that matter, and show just how resilient a spirit Beth McKee has. Not only that, but she wrote every one of them, sometimes with help but often alone. There isn’t anyone else in her league at present, and she gives bright hope the South really will do it again.
The album was released May 16, at the Swamp Sistas La La in Orlando, Fl the 6th Swamp Sista La La Beth has presented to date. The La La is a creole tradition where musicians gather, friends dance and folks give what they can for a common cause. Beth hosts La Las to raise funds and awareness for fighting local hunger with good, nutritious food.
The new material moves away from honky-tonk into highly elevated mood pieces with Gothic lyrical touches. Jim Abbott Orlando Sentinel.
Beth was chosen as a finalist in the Second Annual NewSong LEAF Singer-Songwriter competition.
Beth’s solo performance at the Timucua White House
Beth McKee is a singer and songwriter who hails from Jackson, Mississippi, but grew up all over the American South. She plays piano, organ, and accordion as well. Her music is deeply influenced by and steeped in the region’s rich musical heritage from blues and R&B to Cajun, rock & roll, zydeco, and soul. Her debut album, I’m That Way, was released in 2010. It showcased her abilities as a singer and instrumentalist. Comprised entirely of songs by Louisiana legend Bobby Charles, the self-released album was distributed by the veteran independent Burnside Records. McKee displayed an uncommon affinity for the material, perhaps due to her big, open-hearted, absolutely honest voice, and won audiences over while touring. By turns, her sophomore effort, Next to Nowhere, was a completely self-penned collection. Encouraged by her husband, drummer Juan Perez, McKee enlisted a group of friends and family as backing players (including guitarist Tommy Malone of the Subdudes) and released the set herself in early 2012. It garnered positive reviews nationally, and received considerable radio play on AAA and satellite radio. THOM JUREK Allmusic.com
Live at the Shed in Maryville, TN
A Mississippi native and former New Orleans and Austin resident now living in Florida, singer Beth McKee has long embraced the manifold sounds of the South, whether in her major-label country act Evangeline or her disc of covers by the great Louisiana polyglot Bobby Charles. Her music sits at the edge of the swamp and the city, adding cosmopolitan polish to the regional impulses of the places she’s called home. — Grayson Currin INDY week Chapel Hill, NC
Wade Tatangelo interviews Beth for Ticket Sarasota Read it here! Oxford American interviewed Beth and Juan for their website. Read it here! Sing Out! reviewed Next to Nowhere Read it here. Writer Wayne Bledsoe previewed a Knoxville show with Beth’s childhood friends TimLee3 Swamp Sista La La at SECCA June 23 VisitMississippi.Org chose River Rush for their tourism commercial.
ALLMUSIC.COM critic Thom Jurek said “Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Beth McKee came to the attention of those outside the deep south withher stellar 2009 album I’m That Way, a collection of Bobby Charles covers. Like him, she possesses one of the most unaffected singing voices out there; it takes pleasure in the act of singing itself. That’s part of what makes Next to Nowhere, her first collection of original material, so special; the other is her songs. McKee is a smoking piano, organ, and accordion player, and all are amply displayed here. The set was self-produced and Tony Battaglia‘s mix is clean and true. The band is a close-knit group of friends and family including drummer/husband Juan Perez. Subdudesfounder Tommy Malone lends his slide guitar playing. McKee‘s songs effortlessly criss-cross the entire panorama of Southern music.” Read the full review at: ALLMUSIC.COM
What really makes Next to Nowhere work are the finely crafted songs. McKee sings in a clear, honest, unmannered style with a sweet, downhome warmth, tempered with a bluesy confidence, and she is an accomplished keyboard and accordion player. It also helps that she has a rocking band on board that is able to keep a groove in the pocket and, at the same time, keep things loose and funky. Beth McKee proves that the blues and other roots forms are the sources from which artists can shape an exciting and seductive musical vision. — Robert H. Cataliotti (Living Blues)
“The South in all its triumph and tragedy shimmers like heat lightning in the songs on McKee’s latest CD, “Next to Nowhere”…. McKee is a woman and performer strong and brave enough to bare her heart and offer it up, song by song, and that honesty has earned her a devoted following.” ~ Kati Schardi, Tallahassee Democrat
Offbeat Magazine said: [An] album of confident, rootsy, adult contemporary numbers reflecting a new self- realization, like Bonnie Raitt with less of the over-polish, Lucinda Williams with her act more together…. [and] Dusty Springfield if she had a weekly honky tonk gig. Read more. . .
Next to Nowhere #5 Click to Pick on BB Kings Bluesville XM Radio channelNext to Nowhere jumps on Americana radio chart list of top 5 added. Next to Nowhere makes the charts first week out.: #11 on the EuroAmericana chart and #19 on the Freeform American Roots Chart.
Beth’s 2009 release, I’m That Way was a tribute to legendary Louisiana songwriter Bobby Charles and it garnered attention and airplay from music lovers globally. It is a soulful and rootsy collection of songs that represent Bobby’s career as a songwriter. more . . .
Beth is actively touring with her band, check the calendar.