Beth McKee has lived through the South from Mississippi to New Orleans, through Florida, Texas and North Carolina and is well familiar with both the joys and hard times necessary to create soulful music. Her May, 2015 release Sugarcane Revival reveals a career defining collection of originals that reflect her continued efforts to delve into the fabric of her deep-South upbringing. As critic Bill Bentley wrote in The Morton Report, “These are songs that matter.” In 2012 she brought her full-hearted voice to “Next To Nowhere,” an all-original collection of songs carved from the struggles of life as a working musician in the South. With stellar reviews and radio airplay worldwide, including a nationally aired tourism commercial for her home state of Mississippi, her career as an indie artist has flourished and she has found a niche for herself among the songwriters of the deep south.
While spending some time off-road to record the new album Beth saw a need to unify her local songwriting community. In early 2014 she began hosting a monthly singer/songwriter series at Orlando hotspot The Smiling Bison. The series quickly became one of the most well attended regular events in town and from it Beth has spawned an all female songwriters circle that meets monthly with every member writing a song each month using a word or phrase that Beth provides ahead of time.
After her New Orleans band Evangeline terminated their contract with MCA Records and broke up in the mid 1990’s Beth took a break from the music business and worked on developing her craft. She honed her songwriting skills in 2010 by recording and releasing “I’m That Way” and breathed her fire into the works of Chess Record’s Louisiana legend Bobby Charles. “Recording Bobby’s songs was a great study in songwriting and I learned a lot from it and from him.” Bobby, was so impressed with Beth’s interpretations of his songs that he asked her to sing with him on his own record “Timeless” which she did and which would turn out to be the last before his death.
Beth has a strong desire to give back to the communities she visits during her tours, so she founded a network of over 2,300 southern women that she dubbed her Swamp Sistas. With their help, Beth hosts gatherings called “La Las” around the South. The Swamp Sista La Las are celebrations of regional music, food and culture and raise awareness and money for community issues and organizations that are important to the group.
The most recent Swamp Sista La La, held in May 16 at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival was a record breaking event and also the release event for Sugarcane Revival. Prior to that were La Las at East End Market in Winter Park, Florida at SECCA in Winston Salem, NC in conjunction with Cobblestone Market, WMNF Community Radio in Tampa, Fl. and at Starbright Farm in Lewisville, North Carolina.
Singing, songwriting and piano playing are still Beth’s primary passions. Beth’s songs speak a universal message and encompass the musical genres that emerged from the Southern US: Soul, New Orleans Rhythm & Blues, Zydeco, Gospel, Country. Beth writes of the courageous human spirit with a gritty voice that rings true and from experience. That’s a message that — no matter who we are or where we come from – we need to hear.
Like Bonnie Raitt with less of the over-polish, Lucinda Williams with her act more together. Maybe Dusty Springfield if she had a weekly honky tonk gig. — Alex V. Cook (New Orleans Offbeat Magazine)
. . . she possesses one of the most unaffected singing voices out there — Thom Jurek (Allmusic.com)
…. an artist who is chock full of talent that she channels through a program of original tunes that portend big things for the future.— Robert H. Cataliotti (Living Blues)
Honky Tonk piano worthy of some Jerry Lee Lewis arson.
– L.A. Weekly (live review)
The show is stolen however, by Beth McKee, in a class with a young Bonnie Raitt.
– Nashville Scene (live review)
McKee’s soulfully stirring, Bonnie Raitt-recalling vocals come across as both laid-back yet honeysuckle sincere on all eleven McKee originals. – Gary Von Tersch (Sing Out Magazine)
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)
McKee pulls it off magnificently…spine tingling.
– John Conquest, Third Coast Music
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