Britt Neal is no son of a preacher man. But she is the daughter of one. So, yes, her introduction to the power of those black-and-white keys came while seated at the piano in the front of her father’s church. While not busy playing hide-and-seek in the church graveyard, or sampling the grape juice used for Communion wine, Britt cut her teeth on such Southern Baptist standards as “Victory in Jesus” and “There’s Power in the Blood.”
The girl’s got roots, and a lot of them. Born in Richmond, V.A., she moved with her family to Louisville, K.Y., then Fincastle, V.A., Walterboro, S.C., and High Point, N.C., as her dad studied at seminary or got called from church to church. She spent vacations in Kenya and Tanzania to visit her missionary grandparents and other gospel-spreading kin. She earned her first college degree at Wake Forest University, an old Baptist school in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And she got herself another in Canberra, Australia, after spending a year there studying the traditional songs of Indigenous Aborigines.
Preachers’ kids are known for turning out to be rebels, so maybe it’s no wonder Britt’s now in New York, playing her heart out for the congregations of sorts who gather in the city’s most music-loving holes-in-the-wall. Her sound is rich with rhythm, gospel and blues, with glimpses every now and then of the world she’s heard whenever she turned on her radio. Country and bluegrass, nyimbo and fjatpangarri, and – after her family’s last transition to Edisto, a flat, swampy sea island on the South Carolina coast - beach music, shag and good old Southern rock.
Britt sings of loves gained and loves lost, dreams denied and dreams longed for, and, of course, her brand of faith: Walking the walk, and fighting the good fight.
If you’re looking for a girl schooled in Southern graces, Britt ain’t it. She’s about as down to earth as they come. And when she lets loose with her savory voice and wandering fingertips, she warms the faces of all who gather around her piano.