Beth McKee European Street Listening Room Jacksonville, Fl 12/16/10
I had lost sight of Beth McKee after Evangeline split up several years ago. About a year ago I attended a Subdudes concert in Orlando,Fl. and Beth was the opening act. I talked with her after the show and found that she was now living and performing in the Orlando area as a solo act. I got on her mailing list which led me to European Street last Thursday. European Street is a true listening room. It’s a small, 100 seat or less venue, very intimate and very well run by Ray Lewis. Ray is a promoter; however, he is a fan first and very serious about his music. He invites performers who have caught his ear and provide an excellent environment for performing.
If you have not seen or heard Beth before, she is a cross between Marcia Ball, Bobby Charles and Maria Muldaur. She plays keyboard and accordion and sings a play list heavily influenced by Southwest Louisiana. What impressed me the most was her vocals, although I have always admired her singing I thing she has actually increased her range and power over the last couple of years. During this hour and a half show she sang 21 tunes ranging from the Bobby Charles songbook: “I’m That Way”, “Small Town Talk”, “Last train to Memphis”, and ” See You Later Alligator”; Paul McCartney: “Tug of War”; Bob Dylan:” On a Night Like This”; Eddie Shuler: “Sugerbee”; Marcia Ball: “Don’t Want No Man”; Professor Longhair: “In the Night”; and a Ike and Tina Turner hit from the 60’s: “Fool In Love”.
She also included” Got You on My Mind” made famous years ago by Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt. In addition she threw in several blues and zydeco numbers. That is an eclectic set list; however, each number benefited from her rootsy interpretation. The vocals and tunes had a obvious Cajun/swamp pop influence and resulted in a completely new interpretation for songs like on “A Night like This” or “Fool In Love”.
This was one of the best 90 minutes of music that I have witnessed in a long time. There was never a weak moment or a lull. Each song built on the next and absolutely no one left the performance early. I believe she could have easily held the audience for another hour if time permitted. Beth has put together a new backing band with her husband Juan Perez on percussion, accompanied by bass and guitar. Unfortunately I did not catch the bass and guitar player’s names, but, I assure you that they are hitting on all cylinders, even though the guitar player had just joined the band and I believe it was his first live gig with Beth.
I look forward to seeing more of Beth locally; however, she is ready for National exposure. She would be a great addition at Blues and Americana Festivals in 2011. Beth has two albums available “I’m That Way” the songs of Bobby Charles and “Louisiana Roots” both are top notch and available at bethmckee.com and Beth can be reached at her myspace page bethmckeeperez.