Beth Whitney, a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter from Snohomish, Washington, is definitely an artist to watch. At 23, she shows a remarkable mastery of wordplay and a genuine love of language, along with a pop sensibility rarely seen in a songwriter so young. Growing up in a rural town 30 miles outside of Seattle, Beth spent her childhood running through the long grass, climbing trees and spending time along the river near her family home. These early experiences led her to begin writing poetry at a young age. “As I learn and experience the world—God, life, love, all of it—I write it down and arrange it, figure it out. I love doing that. It’s how I write songs,” she says.
Beth’s latest offering, Leave Your Shoes, is a musical gem that artfully weaves dreamy, energetic acoustic folk-pop melodies with thoughtful lyrics, creating tunes you’ll soon be humming like old favorites. Her milky-sweet vocals and powerful magnetism will turn the most unlikely listeners into instant fans. Leave Your Shoes’ well-wrought musings range from the butterflies of first love (“Kickin’ Pinecones”) to angsty, post-teen self-reflection (“Miss Misery”), and spiritual awakenings (“Busy Bee”) to the tragedy of a loved one taken before his time (“Lights Out”).
A self-taught guitarist, Beth’s own musical heroine, and a great influence on her sound, is Mindy Smith. “She has a beautiful soul and writes/sings songs that rip me to pieces,” says Beth. Her other influences include singer Jennifer Knapp, hip-hop soulster Lauryn Hill and jazz great Diana Krall.
Review by Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo
World and Pop Music Director
Producer, The Old Country: Exploring Roots in Music
KBCS 91.3 FM, Seattle
Beth Whitney’s phenomenal debut release, "Leave Your Shoes", reminds us that we have absolutely nowhere to be but right here, right now. So powerful is the experience of this album that each and every time I play it, I’m transported – instantly – to the present. Her voice texturizes even the subtlest of surroundings in and outside of the recording. Ms. Whitney breathes life into each note. Really, it’s the most sublime invitation to stillness: lyrics, chords, and sweet, milky vocal nuances etch themselves beautifully in a sparse acoustic landscape. The tune, Grandma Francis, featuring Whitney on solo guitar, reminds us to love our elders - to share our love and beauty, and theirs - while they're with us.
Whitney has a musical wisdom about her that’s beyond any realm of definition and finds its highest form in her haunting lament, Miss Misery. In her easy-going and sweetly island-inspired Sugar-Coated, Beth delivers. Even her rendition of the folk spiritual Wayfaring Stranger inspires a stop-what-you’re-doing-now-(and listen) imperative.
Deem it a musical treasure when one can hear, so vividly, the presence and commitment of each musician. Whitney’s debut is marked not only by her own guitar playing, but also by a host of sought-after musicians on the local, national and international scene, who lend their own brand of musical wisdom to the splendor that is Leave Your Shoes.
Al Kaatz brings his distinctive slide guitar magic to Miss Misery, accompanied also, by Ruth Marshall's beautiful cello. The innovative (and internationally-acclaimed) percussion master Jeff Busch graces the album with a steady stream of rhythmic inventiveness.
Guest musicians, virtuoso violinist, Sallah Ali, and bassist Dean Schmidt align powerfully in Wayfaring Stranger, and Orville Johnson's dobro and mandolin, Lester Price's cuatro, and Michael Christen on harmonica add the perfect icing to Whitney's already sweet Sugar-Coated.
Whitney and bassist Aaron Fishburn have created a musical bond that transcends instrumental and vocal collaboration; listen to Broken Beauty and find yourself mesmerized by the magic of timing, grace, and lyrical beauty.
With a powerful line-up of musicians, a distinctive voice that is perfectly sublime - from folkloric traditionals and hymns to self-penned laments and luscious acoustic pop tunes - Beth Whitney demonstrates why it is so important to be here now. And her debut couldn't be more timely: the world needs a reminder to just slow down - bring our voice and our vision of love and light wherever we tread. And remember to leave our shoes.