New Orleans Offbeat Magazine’s review of Next to Nowhere
Offbeat’s review of I’m That Way
Profile by Lawrence Specker Mobile Press Register
Americana Music Show interview Calvin Powers
Philadelphia Gazette review: Next to Nowhere
Profile and review by Carlton Fletcher in Albany Herald
Profile by Keith Spera in New Orleans Times Picayune
Profile by Lisa O’Donnell in the Winston-Salem Journal
Read a review of Beth’s live show by Jim Abbott of the Orlando Sentinel
Read Jim Markel’s review of I’m That Way for Swampland.com
“I’m That Way”
Bobby Charles, as you may have gathered, is one of my all-time favorite singers, songwriters and musical stylists, so you’d think I’d recoil in horror from the very idea of an album consisting entirely of covers of his songs, but McKee pulls it off magnificently, so much so, indeed, that her album’s been endorsed and raved about by none other than Charles himself. Originally from Jackson, MS, McKee was once part of the all-female New Orleans group Evangeline, which may, anyway should, still be remembered for the marvelous French Quarter Moon (Margaritaville, 1993), so she’s certainly no stranger to Charles’ swamp groove. When I first listened to this, I assumed it surely must have been recorded at The Dockside Studio in Maurice, using at least some of the musicians who’ve played on Charles’ albums, but was stunned to learn that it was actually cut in Orlando, FL, where McKee’s now based, with local musicians, including her husband Juan Perez drums and percussion, doing a quite amazing job of capturing the sinuous southern Louisiana vibe. Playing acoustic piano, keyboards and accordion, McKee’s ten cuts span Charles’ career, from the 50s/early 60s hits, See You Later Alligator, Walking To New Orleans and (I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do, Tennessee Blues, Small Town Talk and I’m That Way from Bobby Charles (Bearsville, 1972), I Don’t See Me from Wish You Were Here Right Now (Stony Plain, 1995), I Don’t Want To Know from Secrets Of The Heart (Stony Plain, 1998) and I Spent All My Money Loving You and Last Train To Memphis from Last Train To Memphis (Bogalusa, 2004). Charles told McKee he wishes she’d included The Jealous Kind, and I’ll second that—it’s about the first song I’d record if I was magically given the ability to hold a tune—but she deferred to Etta James and Delbert McClinton’s versions. I have to say that her Small Town Talk doesn’t quite work for me, but otherwise McKee’s vibrant vocals do Charles proud, with Tennessee Blues as the spine-tingling standout. Usually this kind of album is a Various Artists deal, and usually a couple three contributors don’t quite get it, but McKee surely gets Bobby Charles.
Beth McKee got her start in music playing piano in church in her native Mississippi. She honed her craft playing the blues on the chitlin’ circuit and eventually ended up a member of the country-cajun group Evangeline. Her first solo project, I’m That Way (Solo2 Productions), focuses on the music of a Louisiana music icon, Bobby Charles, who wrote such classic hits as “See You Later Alligator,” “But I Do,” and “Walking To New Orleans.”
Listening to McKee sing these songs, it’s obvious that she really has an affinity for this type of music. She has an easy, but exuberant style that really grabs your attention. She really tears through Charles’ catalog, too. “See You Later, Alligator” is a fun romp with a delightful piano break from McKee. Her vocal on “But I Do” is somewhat melancholy, but still hopeful, and her interpretation of “Tennessee Blues” is achingly beautiful.
The title cut sounds like a ’60s swamp rocker with the cool background vocals and McKee’s lusty vocal. “Small Town Talk” has a country-soul feel to it, and “Walking To New Orleans” has an easy Crescent City groove, punctuated by some soulful sax. “Last Train To Memphis” brings things back to the blues, and the closer, “I Don’t See Me,” is a sad ballad that features a heartfelt vocal by McKee (who also plays accordion on the track).
McKee is supported by a stellar group of musicians, including husband and co-producer Juan Perez (drums/percussion), Tommy Calton (guitars), Tony Battaglia (electric and slide guitar/bass), Tim Kelliher (guitars/ukulele), Gery Wilhelm (bass, backing vocals), Barry Dean (bass), Charles DeChant (sax/harmonica), Jerry Embree (sax), Bill Delk (B3), and Abdias Garcia (backing vocals).
I’m That Way was released in 2009, so Charles had an opportunity to hear it before his death in early 2010. He and McKee became good friends. McKee sang with Charles on the track, “You Will Always Live Inside of Me,” for his last album, released in February. I’m That Way is a terrific album of Louisiana R&B that is done with passion and love that you will find yourself listening to over and over again.
— Graham Clarke