Megan Bee is prepping for the release of a new album. It’s titled Cottonwood and is set to drop July 21st. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.
According to her official website, Megan Bee is a singer-songwriter, and musician from Athens, Ohio. Her rockin’ resume is highlighted by three other albums including her premiere platter, A Sense of Place, which dropped in 2015. Her list of honors and awards include “the Ark of Music album of the year, The Ohio Music Awards Best Americana and Best Singer-Songwriter Albums, a finalist spot in the USA Songwriting Competition, and an Honorable Mention in [the] American Songwriter’s lyric contest.” Bee performs live all over the US.
Megan Bee’s signature sound is a blend of Americana, Appalachian folk, country, and (here, at least) a bit of the blues as well. Her music is largely “influenced by the collision of Appalachian folk and modern songwriting.”
Cottonwood is a 14-track album and her fourth full-length release. All the songs here are original and written by Bee who leads the way on vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano. She is backed by an assortment of other able artists including John Borchard (pedal steel, electric guitar, and lap steel), Michael Thomas Connolly (fiddle), Ben Ko (cello), Kelly Madewell (banjo), and co-producer Bruce Dalzell (upright bass, organ, electric guitar, accordion, and backing vocals).
Track by Track
The new release opens strongly on “Cottonwood Leaves.” It aptly introduces new listeners to Bee’s focused, light vocals and seemingly simple instrumentation. There are musical moments where one hopefully anticipates the right romantic response to a question–a proposal or perhaps something less obvious–posed amidst a natural setting.
The second selection is “Used To Be.” If you did not know it was a new song by Bee, you might suspect it was a classic folk song from years ago.
The next number is “When The Beach Is Asleep.” This pedal steel piece is a slice of life song-story set in a beach town after the weather gets colder and the tourists all leave. It’s a somewhat dreamy country lullabye that is soundtrack ready.
The blues-based “Snowplow” provides listeners with a fine example of Bee’s love for metaphorical music. Here she compares an overly aggressive admirer to a snowplow. It does seem to be a bit edgy for Bee, but it works.
“Never Known” may be a sign of the times or the product of many years of thought. Either way, this sad song gives an emotional voice to an unborn child. The subject is by no means new per se but her take on it is clever. Barefoot McCoy guests on the piano to top off the track. The song even garnered an Honorable Mention in the American Songwriter’s lyric contest.
The sixth serving is the sibling-centered song “Sister.” Again, the setting is a natural one in a potentially heartstring-pulling, playful, poetic piece nostalgically focused on the seemingly unbreakable bond of sisterhood.
The seventh selection is “Ecstasy.” This one is already an early fave of the critics. Here Bee crafts a non-demonizing tuneful tale of trippy drug use that tactfully tackles the subject in a humanizing, unapologetic, almost sweet musical manner.
The eighth audio offering is “Rolls Away.” It is an interesting, mellow song about someone who is able to escape the trials and tribulations of life via the unlikely sport of bowling. The inclusion of the cello is both unexpected yet surprisingly somehow effective.
Also included here is “Fever.” It’s a clever cut that is apparently a confessional of sorts. It includes an energetic intensity to it too.
Track 10 is “Andy.” Note the continuance of nature references in this track that fans might call appropriately representative of Bee’s songwriting style. It’s a fun bit about a young and potentially unrequited love.
“Fickle” follows. It may be overshadowed by other, previous pieces yet it remains a standalone track. Barefoot McCoy encores on piano to flesh out the cut.
You may find the fun “Fast Johnny” to be quite infectious. This song about a guy who is always “driving really f*ckin’ fast” could almost be considered a rock song. Between the changes and the fuzzy guitar break it’s almost edgy.
“Wish I Knew” is a folk-country cut that centers upon a questionable relationship marred by alcohol use and emotional detachment. It is almost painful and definitely ponderingly emotional.
The closing cut is “Fall Down.” Bee’s signature sound is solid throughout the entire work. This album endnote simply provides the listener with one last opportunity to experience Bee’s distinct combination of individualistic storytelling, down-home acoustic guitar work and comparatively unadorned vocals.
Overall, this album is a fine example of Bee’s writing style, emotive vocals, and penchant for minimalistic production values. Indeed, it is these very elements that aid her in joining together various subjects and themes to effectively present an album based on her personal experiences, imaginative, intimate observations, and sometimes humorous introspective revelations. So check out Megan Bee’s Cottonwood and get the Megan Bee “Fever” like you’ve “Never Known.”