|Womenfolk Finds Beth Amsel
By Ellen Stanley
I thought Id kick this column off by featuring an artist that you might not have heard of but really should have by nowBeth Amsel. Probably best known for her work with the project Voices on the Verge (featuring Erin McKeown, Jess Klein and Rose Polenzani), Beth is a Colorado songwriter with a voice that The Boston Herald has called simply one of the most beautiful on todays folk scene. Despite the fact that she has made appearances on national radio programs Mountain Stage and World Café and has opened for the likes of Greg Brown, Kelly Joe Phelps and Tom Rush, she remains largely unknown, even to many folk-minded folks. Why this is Ill never know. Maybe its because shes not on a record label and instead chooses to self-release her albums. Maybe its because shes never sold her music to be on a television commercial or had a song featured on the WB. Its certainly true that she hasnt put out a flashy single thats caught everyones attention. On the contrary, Beth has done what many singer-songwriters are incapable ofput out consistently solid albums with smart lyrics, catchy melodies and beautiful production. One song doesnt stand out above the rest for one simple reason: theyre all good. Whether she is singing about cornfields, war-ravaged love or the stories of strangers, rest assured that you will be entranced by this womans thoughtful writing and impressive vocals.
On her third album The Reverie Beth takes us on a journey of homecoming. From the opening traveling lines of Michigan to the swinging love song Come Up, Beth sounds like a woman reborn. And after her last album of heartache and farewell it is high time for a record of hope and restoration. Even the haunting Inmans Lament is, at its heart, a love song. Inspired by Charles Fraziers Civil War novel Cold Mountain, the song explores what it means to make the hard journey back home and the love that calls us back there. Inmans Lament is also a perfect example of the interesting yet not overstated production present throughout the album. Produced by David Chalfant (Erin McKeown, Stephen Kellogg, The Nields) and featuring appearances by Lorne Entress, Katryna Nields and Jim Henry, The Reverie reveals the best of Beth Amsel. Chalfant, who also produced her previous record, lets her voice shine and the songs stand on their own merit. His use of pop, swing, folk and country styles never overshadows the songs but instead gives them new and vibrant life.
Beth Amsels new album is just another wonderful example of the mature songwriting and fine musicianship that she consistently puts out for a small audience to enjoy. There is, however, no reason why her audience should be so small. Im hoping that The Reverie will be the album that changes that for her and draws in the numbers of listeners that she deserves.
Ellen works for independent roots label Red House Records and hosts a weekly womens folk music program on KFAI in the Twin Cities. Click here to check out her show and to hear this months Womenfolk Find.