Imagine the female love child of Dusty Springfield and Doug Sahm with Dr. John acting as the midwife…
…and you’ll have an idea of the southern roots music with elements of rock, blues, soul, gospel and country that defines artist Beth McKee.
McKee is a Southern singer/songwriter/pianist/accordion player backed by seasoned musicians from outfits like Hall & Oates, Bellamy Brothers, George Porter, Lester Chambers, etc. A former member of the popular New Orleans country-cajun group Evangeline (MCA Records) McKee toured extensively behind two critically acclaimed albums. L.A. Weekly raved Beth’s piano is “worthy of some Jerry Lee Lewis arson.”
Long before her career took off nationally, the Mississippi native played piano in church. She solidified her southern at Ole Miss. 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.
In 2010, the self-released I’m That Way displays all those southern roots fusing to formulate her swampy and soulful musical identity.
Being swampy and soulful, it’s no surprise her first solo release is devoted to the songs of the late Louisiana legend Bobby Charles. As a member of the historic Chess Records roster in the 1950s, Charles wrote and recorded hits like “See You Later Alligator,” “But I Do” and “Walking to New Orleans.” McKee interprets these and Charles’ lesser known gems on I’m That Way.
In the last year of his life Bobby Charles said Beth McKee is “one talented lady with a great band” and characterized her voice as “easy on my mind.” McKee’s foray into the inimitable material of this bayou balladeer turns from an intimidating exercise to a license to be righteous as she gigs in support of the record.
In a letter from Mr. Charles shortly before his passing he thanks McKee for “making me feel so proud… doing my songs on your new CD.” He liked Beth’s musicianship and vocals so much he included her on his final album Timeless which was released in February, 2010.
“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.”
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.”
Currently a central Florida resident, McKee is still a mainstay on the New Orleans, Austin and Jackson, MS music scenes including a side project with Tommy Malone of the subdudes. 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 is backed by her husband and co-producer Juan Perez, an acclaimed drummer and percussionist in his own right (he was drummer on The Bellamy Brothers’ many #1 Country hits). Beth plays accordion, and most evidently, is a remarkable piano talent. 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.”
Once a budding southern belle. Then a top country-cajun MCA recording artist. Recently an interpreter of Louisiana classics. In 2011 Beth McKee will release a CD with original songs of journeys, love, loss, hope and being on the verge…all wrapped in McKee’s sassy southern styles.
In the meantime she continues to collaborate with her husband Juan and producer Tony Battaglia. McKee is completing a collaborative song and short story collection about lost souls in southern Alabama, and of course she keeps her toes wet in the Nashville/New Orleans/Austin music scenes.