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February 2012

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Beth McKee
Next To Nowhere
Swampgirl Music

Beth McKee

Beth McKee’s previous release, I’m That Way, was a wonderful tribute to legendary Louisiana songwriter Bobby Charles, featuring her interpretations of some of his well-known and lesser-known musical gems. On her latest effort, Next To Nowhere (Swampgirl Music), the singer/songwriter/keyboardist/accordionist presents her listeners with a few gems of her own ---11 self-penned or collaborative tunes that showcase the full range of her talents, moving effortlessly from swamp blues to R&B to rock, gospel, and soul.

The title track, a funky swamp rocker, opens the disc on a high note. “On the Verge” is an atmospheric soul number with McKee’s accordion gently wafting in the background along with sweet backing vocals. “Shoulda Kept On Walkin’” continues that soulful trend, but the next track, “Not Tonight Josephine,” is pure New Orleans R&B in the Professor Longhair tradition, courtesy of McKee’s Fess-like turn on the piano.

McKee is a gifted songwriter; her songs are filled with vivid imagery, like the lovely ballad “New Orleans to Jackson,” and “River Rush,” a carefree song about escaping from all her troubles by making a getaway to the river, something a lot of folks can relate to these days. “Tug of War” is the bluesiest song on the album. Co-written by McKee and her husband, drummer Juan Perez, it also features Subdude Tommy Malone on slide guitar, along with McKee on piano.

The remainder of the album consists of “Someone Came Around,” a countrified rocker that sounds better than most of what passes for country these days, “Same Dog’s Tail,” a nice swamp pop twist on the reminder that troubles (and good times) don’t last always, “Return To Me,” a ballad that’s lifted up a notch or two by McKee’s powerful emotive vocal and more of those great backing vocals, and the funky blues closer, “Already Mine.”

McKee is top notch in all areas, and she has outstanding support by a large group of musicians, which in addition to Perez and Malone, include Barry Dean and Mo Bottums (bass), Dan Walters (piano), Tommy Calton, Justin Beckler, Tony Battaglia (guitars), Jack Bumgarner and Tu Finjajoe (organ), Jason Thomas (fiddle/mandolin), Charles DeChant (saxophones), and those stellar backing vocals (McKee, Walters, Raymond Holmes, Jr., Nicole Johnson, Neja Fenner, Abdias Garcia, Rick Bailey, and Annie Rodriguez).

Next To Nowhere is a great piece of that musical genre called Americana. It incorporates the New Orleans R&B, Cajun, zydeco, rock, country, and soul, all splashed with a healthy dash of the blues, like all good music should be. Don’t miss this one, folks.

--- Graham Clarke


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