What's a writer to do when wounds heal, grief passes, and navel gazing gets old? The Reverie, Beth Amsel's current independent release, is a step forward into such decidedly un-maudlin musical territory. With diverse and irreverent influences spanning classic rock, mid-century pop standards, and early 70's blues influenced country, Beth has created a genre bending album on the morning side of a long night.
Produced and engineered by Dave Chalfant (Erin McKeown, Stephen Kellogg, The Nields), the multi-instrumentalist and bass player from folk rock favorite The Nields, The Reverie was born from cross pollination, impromptu collaboration, and very late night inspiration. Built around the centerpiece of Dave and Beth's work over the course of 2004, The Reverie includes stellar participation from some of New England's favorite players (Katryna Nields, Lorne Entress, Dave Hower, Jim Henry) and includes Foundations Records/Universal recording artists Stephen Kellogg and Keith Karlson. "The record is testament to the central role music has played in my life, both as a language and as a great source of comfort. It's a reminder of a time when the vinyl LP was divine," declares Beth.
The Reverie is Beth's first solo studio recording following the Boston Music Award nominated Voices on the Verge project (the touring roadshow of Amsel, Rose Polenzani, Erin McKeown and Jess Klein). This dynamic foursome, with their delicate harmonies, unexpected instrumentations, tight arrangements, and unpredictable, raucous stage antics, have been heard by millions on NPR's Morning Edition and on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs such as E-Town, Mountain Stage, and World Cafe. In 2002, Voices made their national television debut on the CBS Early Show in support of their October 2001 Rykodisc debut release, Live in Philadelphia. Recorded in front of an intimate audience at legendary Indre Studio in Philadelphia, LIP sold 20,000 copies within six months of its release and over 65,000 copies to date. A three month, coast to coast, 70 date tour, including such venues as The Bottom Line in NYC, The Tractor Tavern in Seattle, The Gothic Theatre in Denver, Shuba's in Chicago, and the Somerville Theatre in MA was a sell out triumph.
To hear Beth sing is to experience a stunning, commanding power. Daniel Gewertz of the Boston Herald calls Beth's voice, "simply one of the most beautiful on today's folk scene."
Her first full-length recording, 1997's A Thousand Miles – initially released only on cassette – garnered the word of mouth that fills the folk-music chat rooms of the internet. In spring of 1999, demand for A Thousand Miles led to its release on compact disc (its sales resulted in three pressings in its first year). In 1999, more than three dozen non-com radio stations added it to their rotation and within six months, selections off A Thousand Miles could be found on more than 30 internet radio sites (as well as Napster). In February 2000, A Thousand Miles was nominated for a 2000 Boston Music Award for Best Debut Folk/Acoustic Album.
Kindling, the Chalfant produced follow up to A Thousand Miles, is a musical ride through love and loss, want and desire, grief and change as seen from the driver's seat of a runaway car. Even as an independent release, it has sold over 6,000 copies to date and can be found on iPods from the Netherlands to Australia.
At a rebellious thirteen, Beth fled what she calls "the black eyelined, hair sprayed depths of suburban Long Island" for a small ranching town on the Western Slope of Colorado, whose sere landscape and sharp mountains felt more like home than subdivisions and strip malls. In Colorado, Beth says, "I became intimately acquainted with potato peelers, wheels of barbed wire and my voice."
It was there, too, that she began keeping journals, noting snippets of conversation, eavesdropping on lives glimpsed in bus stations, diners and dark bars.
When she was twenty, Beth was jarred in the middle of the night by a phone call from the Boulder jail. An acquaintance was in the slammer and needed someone to pay his bail. Beth paid the hundred dollars and accepted, as collateral, his guitar. "I don't play guitar," she told him. "You won't have it long enough to learn," he promised. Two years later, the repayment never made, Beth cracked the case for the first time and met her muse.
Living alone through a particularly bitter Colorado winter in 1994 gave Beth the time she needed to learn the instrument, to set her thoughts into song, and to begin to hone her craft to the sharp edge it holds today. Within a year she had amassed a devoted, almost fanatical, following among acoustic music aficionados in Colorado. And when in 1997 she moved to the vibrant singer/songwriter scene of the Northeast, she was ready to bring her music to a larger audience.
Since then, the word has spread quickly. Sold out shows at clubs like Cambridge's fabled Club Passim, appearances on an increasing number of compilations – such as lead cut on WWUH's Mayday: Folks Next Door, a featured spot on NPR's syndicated Anthem radio show, finalist of WRSI's Singer/Songwriter Contest, one of only three finalists in the 2000 Rosegarden Songwriter Contest, a showcase feature on the mainstage of the 2000 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and a return to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 2001 as one of the four Most Wanted Artists.
Beth currently lives in a small mountain town west of Boulder, CO with her husband, their cat, and Stella, The Wonderdog.