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Next to Nowhere

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Album Review

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Beth McKee came to the attention of those outside the deep south with

her 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. Subdudes founder Tommy Malone lends his slide guitar playing. McKee's songs effortlessly criss-cross the entire panorama of Southern music. The title track, with its funky electric Cajun choogle, is a churning rocker that accepts responsibility for life's mistakes. It's the most danceable articulation of hard times in a dog's age. This is quickly countered by gratitude in the bluesy rocking R&B of "On the Verge," that celebrates survival and second chances. The Swamp Sistas gospel-flavored backing chorus sweetly sings its assent to the protagonist's testimony. "Not Tonight, Josephine" is a rollicking piano stomper in the grand NOLA 88s tradition. "New Orleans to Jackson," with its ghostly violin and B-3, could be covered by Lucia Micarrelli on the Treme series, but McKee singing it would be far better: David Simon, sign this woman up! Gospel and R&B fuel "River Rush," with its grooving Fender Rhodes and popping snare. McKee sings with conviction without having to strive — it's there as soon as she opens her mouth — this is modern Southern soul personified. She can lay out the blues too: "Tug of War" is worthy of Bonnie Raitt at her early best. Cajun-meets-R&B and barroom stroll in "Same Dog's Tail," and the shimmering rocker "Return to Me" would have been worthy of Delaney & Bonnie with Eric Clapton. The set closes with the swampy, sensual blues of "Already Mine," a swaggering testament to all forms of love: unconditional, mutual, and sensual. While the sounds on Next to Nowhere are rooted in the great musical hallmarks of the past, it's only because they speak eternally. So do McKee's songs: they poetically yet directly come right at the gristle and grain of life itself — without reservation. They wear their scars as badges of honor; their victories with grace, sass, and swagger. Her protagonists detail our own struggles, failures, celebrations, loves, and losses with honesty, commitment, acceptance, and willingness. All this in an era when we need them most. Tough, tender, and resilient, McKee's excellent Next to Nowhere comes from a songwriter we need to hear more from. Period.

Customer Reviews

Fantastic!!!

I got the chance to see her and her band at a corporate gig. We asked for one more song to which she replied with "Return to Me". After that I had to get the album.

Biography

Born: August 22, 1960 in Jackson, MS

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

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...
Full Bio
Next to Nowhere, Beth McKee
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