Beth Whitney – Into the Ground
Coming from Washington State this fine singer-songwriter knows how to apply atmospherics, mood & haunting touches to well-written songs.
Produced by Brandon Bee this doesn’t sound like anything in contemporary music today. This has touches of progressive rock (read: The Strawbs, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake) woven into folksier threads.
Gently resonating cello & stabbing acoustic effects highlight “Wild Roses.” Beth Whitney (vocals/acoustic guitar/baritone ukulele/banjo) creates an environment that seeps from a film like Janet McTeer’s “The Intended.” Tart violin strains, bellowing backup & marvelous voodoo arrangement underpinning. This is creative. Beth continues with this formula on “You Leave a Light On,” that steps into a more Carole King-type piano-driven song. Good lyrics, sung in a Jewel style. Tight, compelling & damn well-done.
A bit more sublime “Two Sons,” finds Beth’s storytelling riveting. Anchored by deep cellos in a country-noir spirit. It has a sense of magic, incense, moonshine, dusty Bibles, young barefoot boys strumming banjos & old men playing checkers in the smoky mountains. This conjures things.
With “Wild Horse,” (not the Rolling Stones classic) a jazzier-pop vibe mixes with the tradition of show tunes & singer-songwriters of the 70s (Judee Sill, Pam Polland, & Cris Williamson). No hippie inclinations just superior pure, honest poetry set to music. Another well-arranged song with drama toward the finale. Beth’s voice has tonality & innocence. An inflection is similar to Melanie Safka (“Lay Down, Candles In the Rain”).
The 11-cut Into the Ground (Tone Tree Music-Drops May 28) have welcome melodies to the naked ear. “In Another Life,” is simple with sustained beauty throughout. A cover of Bob Dylan’s classic “Shelter From the Storm,” is brave. However, Beth passes it from contemporary to traditional. Her banjo rendition makes the song sound as if it’s been sung for generations. This is how certain songs live on & transcend their origins.
“Thunder,” is exceptional. Vocally similar to Natalie Merchant, Maria McKee & Kris McKay. Rich in poignant words, strong melody & performed with sincerity. “I Go,” touches in the realm of Jewel, Joan Osbourne but sung a little more juvenile & captured well with acoustic guitar, the unified vocals of Brittany Alvis & Gina Belliveau (both co-wrote the song with Beth).
The band: Aaron Fishburn (upright/electric bass/backing vocals), Natalie Mai Hall (cello), Brandon Bee (electric/acoustic/slide guitars/mandolin/synth/piano/keys/backing vocals & Mark Alvis (drums/percussion/backing vocals).
Criticism: Just 2 – non-musical: the interior sepia image by Michael Krantz of Beth would’ve been a far better, compelling CD cover that depicts her music more accurately. Having been a graphics professional in a prior career – the printing of the CD stinks. Sorry. Beth’s image is washed out & has no color. The inside front cover type needs to be spread. The front of the CD type is hardly readable & of all things Beth’s name. Fix it. She’s an artist. The 43-minute CD is available @ https://www.bethwhitneymusic.com/