Megan Bee – Cottonwood
There’s an early Joni Mitchell quality to Megan Bee’s vocals as she starts her 14 original organic tunes with “Cottonweed Leaves,” & the playfully excellent foul language of “Fast Johnny.” For those old enough to remember what I’m talking about, Joni had a thin folky reedy voice in her early days & though Bee will remind one of Joni Megan’s voice is refined, sweeter & more distinctive.
Good imagery & metaphors married smartly to contemplative songs laid out in an inspired storytelling manner. Megan’s seldom silly, or hippie-oriented despite her moonflower references, meteor showers dragonflies & yellow birds. She manages to navigate her subjects with lighter-than-air words & expressive melodies.
“Used To Be,” in its simplistic style maintains a beautiful sound throughout & is memorable for many female singer-songwriters of the 60s. But there’s a deepness to Megan’s vocal more mindful of such emotive English folk singers as the late Sandy Denny & Christine Collister. On “When the Beach Is Asleep,” is one of the inventive titles to her steel guitar-driven poignant Nanci Griffith vocalese. A childlike story pleasant & reflective.
Megan’s (acoustic guitar/piano) advantages are that she can switch from folky on a dime to a courteous country-flavored vocal as on “Snowplow,” with its Reba McIntyre charm.
Produced in Ohio by Megan Bee & Bruce Dalzell (upright bass/organ/electric guitar/accordion/backing vocals) Cottonwood (Drops July 21–Independent) is Megan’s 4th LP — a delightful set of songs that don’t challenge the listener as much as simply pleases one. The simplicity of her material is what shines.
“Never Known,” features nimble-fingered piano surrounded by appealing clever words about the hopeful voice of an unborn child. It isn’t what country radio plays today – this is all well-thought-out tales that are perceptive & insightful without being controversial.
At times Ms. Bee borders on the vocal gymnastics of Sarah McLachlan & Sally Oldfield. She pokes at ears with references to LSD & being “out there” on “Ecstasy.” But it never delves into ugliness, but simply innocence of mistakes made. “Rolls Away,” is a clever assessment of finding escape through bowling & has a touch of the Adele & Bird York (“In the Deep”) vocal approach, enhanced by the lovely string section.
Vocals are consistently strong & change gears as quietly as an expensive car’s automatic transmission. Lead instruments interchange delightfully to give each song its own distinction. None of the songs last too long to wear out their welcome. “Wish I Knew,” towards the finale is one of the best tunes on this well-conceived LP. Not a bad song here.
Players include – John Borchard (pedal steel/electric guitar/lap steel), Michael Thomas Connolly (fiddle), Ben Ko (cello), Kelly Madewell (banjo) & Barefoot McCoy (piano).
Photo with guitars courtesy of Megan’s website/Image with hat: Amos Perrine. CD @ https://meganbeemusic.com/