Long before her career took off nationally, she played piano in church. She solidified her southern belle status at Ole Miss and then.... she played blues on the chitlin’ circuit across the nation.
Listening to a mix of Jackson Mississippi born Beth McKee’s songs is a lot like getting an exclusive guided tour through the music genres of the South over the last 100 years or so. Long before her career took off nationally, she played piano in church, like a proper southern girl. She solidified her southern belle status at Ole Miss and then…. she played blues on the chitlin’ circuit from steamy juke joints to muddy hog farms, and emerged as a respected player on the New Orleans, Austin and Nashville music scenes, where in the early 1990’s McKee became a member of the all female band Evangeline, under contract with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records.
After a couple of albums the band broke up however and she moved with her husband/drummer Juan to Orlando. Tired of the years of constant touring, the couple found a thriving music scene in Orlando, largely fueled by the employment of musicians from around the globe at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center. In this environment they were happy with the ever widening reputation as Central Florida’s only New Orleans style band.
It was not until 2008 when she took on the task to immortalize Bobby Charles, the reclusive southwest Louisiana writer of “See You Later Alligator” and “Walking to New Orleans” and recorded an album of great Cajun moods.
Listening to McKee invites you to daydreaming about Dr. John (I live on a lonely avenue) delivering the female love child of Dusty Springfield (Son of a Preacherman) and Texas All round Musician Doug Sahm (as her bio explains on her website).
And if that visual does not appeal to you, then just imagine southern belle, deep southern roots music with elements of rock, blues, soul, gospel, zydeco and country, delivered on piano or accordion to accompany her supple and reaching voice. That about sums it up.
L.A. Weekly raved that Beth’s piano is “worthy of some Jerry Lee Lewis arson.”
Bobby Charles, reportedly not much of a people person, said Beth McKee is “one talented lady with a great band” and characterized her voice as “easy on my mind.” He recruited McKee to sing on “You’ll Always Live Inside of Me” from “Timeless,” his final, posthumous album and she subsequently took part in a Charles tribute at the Cabildo during the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2010.
McKee’s foray into the inimitable material of this bayou balladeer turns from an intimidating exercise to a license to be righteous as she has been gigging in support of the record.
In a letter from Mr. Charles shortly before his passing in January 2010, he thanks McKee for “making me feel so proud… doing my songs on your new CD.”
“Louisiana IS Americana,” McKee says, “and when Bobby bared his soul in his work, it was as if he were baring the soul of Louisiana. Straightforward; passionate, fun-loving. When I sing his songs, I just have to lay it all out there, because Bobby was sincere to the core.”
What the Media Wrote
• Louisiana’s arts weekly Offbeat Magazine agreed by writing; “And it’s the absolute right approach for material from the Bard of the Bayous, Guru of the Gulf, Sage of the Swamps.”
• The Orlando Sentinel’s Jim Abbott, who compares Beth’s vocals to Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, notes: “On piano, her driving left hand recalls Professor Longhair.”
• When reviewed in concert, the Nashville Scene raved “The show was stolen however by…Mississippi native Beth McKee” . The review “put her in a class with a young Bonnie Raitt.” ( I do wonder if she has “Love me Like a Man” in her repertoire…?)
She has performed with such legends as Buckwheat Zydeco, the subdudes, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Buffett, the Zion Harmonizers and many more. She’s performed from coast to coast, including concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, Antone’s, Tipitina’s and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
McKee has nearly finished a new CD of compositions that evoke Bonnie Raitt and Marcia Ball; a CD with original songs of journeys, love, loss, hope and being on the verge… all wrapped in McKee’s sassy southern styles. In anticipation of a late-summer release, she, Perez, bassist Dan Walters and guitarist Brian Chodorcoff are touring in ever-expanding concentric circles throughout the Southeast.
And this Saturday afternoon at 12:15 Beth McKee and her band will take the Main Stage at the Amelia Island Blues Festival for a 75 minute performance you don’t want to miss.
Don’t make the mistake and think that early acts are ‘just’ warm-ups. If we would have known of her availability earlier in the year, she would have taken an evening spot. It only underscores however that every minute at the first Amelia Island Blues Festival will be one to cherish.
If you don’t believe me than watch this video of an 11 year old local girl who just two days ago asked if we would have a slot for her at the Festival. And yes we have a slot for her at the Rayonier Acoustic Stage, because she just may score huge at an upcoming America’s Got Talent.
You can still order Tickets via the website or purchase them at any of the following Ticket Outlets. VIP Tickets however are Sold Out.