|With her most recent CD, The Reverie, garnering due praise from reviewers across the country, Beth Amsel continues the long musical journey that has taken her from the Front Range to New England and back to Boulder, where she plans, once again, to present the Annual Hometown Holiday show.
“Even when I lived on the East Coast,” explains Amsel, “I tried to come back to Colorado once a year and do a big show where I could play to all the local people and musicians who have been supporting me since I performed at the open mics. The same people are still coming out to hear me play, which is a real honor. This is always my favorite show of the entire year.”
Like many young artists, Amsel’s early inspiration came from a broken heart. Working out her grief through a combination of prose and poetry, which she had been writing her entire life, Amsel put her experience into her music. “I started playing the open mics in Boulder and then immediately started writing songs. I knew when I first did the open mic at Penny Lane, that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
As the youngest of five siblings, she inherited a widely diverse set of musical influences, from the Dead to jazz to Baez to hardcore punk, in addition to her mother’s love for musicals and her father’s penchant for Sinatra. But once she began performing, Amsel says her own musical tastes took over.
“At that point, I started my folk education. I had never really listened to folk music particularly. Then I discovered the New England folk scene through Dirty Linen magazine, and decided that was the place to do it, so I left here in March of 1996.”
That fateful departure to Northampton, Mass., led to her connection with several talented musicians in the area, such as Chris Eberhart and Dar Williams. However, the most important person that Amsel met was Dave Chalfant, bass player for the Nields, who went on to produce two of her CDs.
“We’ve had a musical collaboration since 2000, when I got a chance to sing on some records that he was making. We just have a great symbiotic musical relationship.”
Amsel also had the opportunity to join the award-winning female quartet Voices on the Verge, where she collaborated with Jess Klein, Erin McKeown and Rose Polenzani to record a widely acclaimed album on Rykodisc.
“It was really fantastic. It was an insane year and a half of touring and radio and press and performing and really becoming a better musician and better show-person. [It was also] a chance to do national touring, which up until that point I had not done much of.”
After all that excitement and growth, Amsel moved back to the Boulder area in 2003 and began working on The Reverie, frequently flying back to New England to work with Chalfant. “He’s just a fantastic counterpoint for me. He’s incredibly talented. Also he’s incredibly loose in the studio, so we can try out really bizarre instruments, like hammers on teacups and rubber bands close to a mic.”
The Reverie definitely shows off Amsel’s characteristically strong voice, which the Boston Herald calls “simply one of the most beautiful on today’s folk scene,” as well as her intelligent and personal songwriting skills.
The Annual Hometown Holiday show will be a chance to hear Amsel and some special guests in a more spontaneous presentation. “For me, the best part about going to a concert is not the precise sounds that are duplicated off the record,” says Amsel. “It’s the off-the-cuff stuff, things you’re not expecting to hear.”