Beth Amsel

Beth Amsel

BandPopAcoustic

"A Beautiful Voice!” "Her songwriting, guitar work are extraordinary.” Contemporary singer-songwriter Beth Amsel is a gifted, natural performer whose love of the art is as infectious as it is intoxicating. Her live shows are a cool balance of emotionally articulate writing and bawdy humor.

Biography

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 increas

Lyrics

Long Island Sound

Written By: Beth Amsel

©1999 Good Egg Music

I've never seen it rain like this in the ten years I've been living here
I haven't tasted salt on my skin since I don't know
Because here's not like the once there, the road map in my rear view,
the back home, the down home.
I was the youngest child. I was the crazy one. I was the one who got away.
All my life lines, they broke down on that shore line
No one listens to the yearning on the gold coast of the Long Island Sound.

You were the wiser, so silent with your daughter, you never asked
"Where have you been?"
And patiently waiting to pull me out and save me cause I'm drowning again.
Because I was willing to try out anything just to get out
and I didn't care if I was a neon sign.
But for years I'd listen to the fog horns in the distance from my bedroom
calling out the mystery of the Sound
Hopeful

I was the last one the wire
Godspeed to nowhere at all
I was coming up, growing up, and leaving home
leaving nothing I'd ever know
like nothing I'd ever know
for nothing I'd ever known.

But that's water now behind us passed on like an ice age years ago
and the things I remember are changing like the shore line of the Harbor Cold Spring.
Like the Man of Wars between us, walking throught the mine fields, step lightly.
They'll never make it back home to their blue home cause the tides out
and the blue's brown, what's left of the Long Island Sound.
Hopeful
Hopeful
I am hope.

Saint Mark

Written By: Beth Amsel

©1999 Good Egg Music

I came up on a Greyhound from the southland
past peach pit plantation plains
and I can still taste that sweetness in my mouth
don't think I'll be eating peaches again

Brought up on religion on a river
sandbar schooling is something else
and I can still smell that muddied water
cause it's in my hair and in my skin and in my clothes

When I put my feet down in the station
my soles stuck solid to the tile
and my eyes were tearing from the fumes in the Port
but there's nothing much left that makes me cry

But in the light on the evening
the sidewalks are teeming with the sound of the venders,
runners, I-can't-sleepers,
I can't sleep
can't sleep

I took my place among the ragged brigadiers
all the leather bound bar boys know my name
and the blue midnight masses milling in the street
sing sweeter than all the Sundays I've ever known

At night when the black khol bleeds dark bands beneath our eyes
and we watch our youth wash down the sink
Saint Mark and Patrick watch from lamp posts up above
and their tears fill the gutters from which we drink

But in the light on the evening
the sidewalks are teeming with the sound of the venders,
runners, I-can't-sleepers
And the cat calls keep calling
the night girls are stalling to the sack boys
wearing blankets in the heat
blankets in the heat

The phantom players place their bets down on the box
but the monty cards are always the same
the tourists gather round thinking they've got it made
don't no one know that no one wins that game

But sometimes when the pavement steams
and my skin could blister to the touch
I can still see wisteria curling in the green
and I tell myself I really donít miss it much

But in the light on the evening
the sidewalks are teeming with the sound of the venders,
runners, I-can't-sleepers
And the cat calls keep calling
the night girls are stalling to the sack boys
wearing blankets in the heat
Where all the heroes are black clad
and the smoke circled jet lagged
park their limos just inches from our feet.
Where all the sidewalks are ending,
the bowery's dead ending in the footprints
of Saint Mark in the Square
Saint Mark is walking in the Square
barefoot in the square
And I'm not leaving.

End Of July

Written By: Beth Amsel

©2004 Good Egg Music (ASCAP)

Hey, It's night in the tall grass and cat reeds
So silent you slip past the driveway
on down towards my house, towards my heart, across the well
Crack the glass, hold your breath, slip the ledge, I'll never tell
You and I in the end of July

Hey, light on the straw wheels, golden light
John Deere dead parked in the corn fields
Nothing shifts
Wait for a sign, shoot the moon, close your eyes
The weather moves, the crickets call, I love you back bones and all
you and I in the end of July

Catch us if you can
In the dark we're nothing but stars
Brilliant satellites
We're stars into dust into stars

Hey, it's only a snapshot, black and white
I'll never tell how we end up
You and I in the end of July

Common Things

Written By: Beth Amsel

©2001 Good Egg Music

I cross the border from New Mexico
I'm a refugee from Colorado
With an axe to cut my exile down to size
Kachina dolls hang in the wind
a holy ghost I am born again
in all that I adore and I despise

The radio signal comes from somewhere west of Farmington
and I believe in every word it says

Coming from the point of view
that no one ever knows you
I hoble into town where I am known
I watch the angus cross the flats
the barbed wire fence that hold them back
and in every kink of sharpened steel I'm home

The pleasure of your weathered skin
the thought of knowing thirst again
and summer sere and violent across the plains
This is resurrection still
a lesson, death, and burial
and rise up through the limestone once again

All these common things
bits and pieces of your life
blown apart and rearranged
and as far as I can tell,
as far as I can tell you're still the same

Grab the gate, I make sure its latched
I bit the end off a red head match
and the sulfur keeps me honest to the core
I scuff the dirt off of my shoes
and hang my head like I'm supposed to
and I drop the wrought iron knocker against the door

All these common things
bits and pieces of your life
blown apart and rearranged
and as far as I can tell,
as far as I can tell you're still the same

Hello Baby

Written By: Beth Amsel

©2005 Good Egg Music (ASCAP)

Hello, baby, how’ve you been?
We haven’t spoken much lately.
There’s no right and wrong that I can tell.

You just do the best you can
and hold your breath
and hope it all ends well.

You lit out of town,
half expecting the world to spin down.
With no love and no hope left to gain.

There’s no cold enough
to deaden numb you
still you find you cherish your pain.

And it’s alright now. It’s alright now.
It’s under the bridge, over and out.

It all comes to pass.
Sweet forgiveness is yours if you’ll ask.
There’s no shame and no loss that I can’t fill.

Come and let me know you,
et me love you,
let me show you I will. I will. I will.

Glass Beads, Brass Coins

Written By: Beth Amsel

©2007 Good Egg Music (ASCAP)

By the time you read this note, I’ll be on my way to gone
halfway cross an unknown world
lonely still but all along
I can carry you a while, if I hold you in my heart
and though it’s hell to walk away
if I don’t go now, I’ll never start
the day is leaning quickly into dark

I never knew the man by name
just leather boots and canvas coat
you think you hide what hurts you most
but it’s a clear stone down your throat
Mother, madness ain’t a sin
it’s just a shame you kept your quiet
and I’d hate myself for sure if I never even tried
to find the man who made me before he dies

Glass beads and brass coins
silver threads and wooden toys
grass stains and bluebells
dandelions and fainting spells
my precious little boy

Oh, though I swore I’d never write
if you could see what I have seen
I guess I try to understand
the father that he could’ve been
in every city there’s a face that tells me all I need to know
a broken heart, a bitter man, but the softness always shows
the futile pull against the undertow

Glass beads and brass coins
silver threads and wooden toys
grass stains and bluebells
dandelions and fainting spells
my precious little boy

Oh, in every corner of the room
there’s a voice just like a fist
I thought I could keep you from the sound
thought only ignorance is bliss
there’s no reason I recall
or explanation I can find
only people often make then turn around and change their minds
and disappear from memory over time

You found glass beads and brass coins
you found silver threads and wooden toys
grass stains and bluebells
dandelions and fainting spells

Cats eyes and sharp nails
tarnished cuff links and fairy tales
bow ties and three pence
orphaned hinges, dead letter stamps
my precious little boy

Discography

•2007, Fly Away (CD), limited edition five song EP
•2005, The Reverie (CD)
•2005, Tsunami Relief Project (CD), contributed “How It Comes to This” from Kindling
•2002, Kindling (CD)
•2001, Live in Philadelphia w/ Voices on the Verge (CD), Rykodisc
•1999, A Thousand Miles (CD)
•1999, Means to This End featured on Fresh Tracks Sampler (CD)
•1998, Saint Mark lead cut on WWUH: Folks Next Door 7 (CD)
•1997, A Thousand Miles (tape only)
•1996, Live performance of “Saint Mark” featured on Live From Acoustic Coffeehouse (CD)

OPENING SUPPORT FOR (sample):
Dar Williams
Antigone Rising
Tom Rush
Catie Curtis
Richard Shindell
Lucy Kaplansky
Erica Wheeler
Louise Taylor
Greg Brown
Lynn Miles
Kelly Joe Phelps
Susan Werner
Peter Mulvey
Katryna and Nerissa Nields
Cliff Eberhardt

NATIONAL RADIO PERFORMANCES:
eTown
Mountain Stage
World Cafe
Acoustic Cafe

RADIO AIR PLAY (SAMPLE):
WFUV, The Bronx, NY
WAMC, Albany, NY
WFMT, Chicago, IL
WDET, Detroit, MI
WJFF-FM, Liberty, NY
WUMB-FM, Boston, MA
WPSU-FM, Universtiy Park, PA
WNEC-FM, Henniker, NH
WNCW-FM, Spindale, NC
WUFT-FM, Gainesville, FL
WRSI-FM, Greenfield, MA
WUMF-FM, Farmington, ME
KASU-FM, Jonesboro, AK
KANU-FM, Lawrence, KS
WKSU-FM, Keene, NH
WMUA-FM, Amherst, MA
WVPR-FM, Colchester, VT
WHCL-FM, Clinton, NY
KOPN-FM, Columbia, MO
WCUW-FM, Worcester, MA
WEVO-FM, Concord, NH
WSPN-FM, Saratoga Springs, NY
KZSC-FM, Santa Cruz, CA
WFCR-FM, Amherst, MA
KLCC-FM, Eugene, OR

INTERNET RADIO PLAY (SAMPLE):
Women Who Wrock (http://www.michal.com
Live365.com

Set List

A typical show, if there is no opening act, consists of two 45 minute sets with a 20 minute break between. If there is an opening act, I'll perform a single 90 minute set. I do all originals, but usually throw in two interesting or unusual covers or a song by a generally unknown independent artist who I think my audience would appreciate. I offer a mix that showcases my vocal range, an emotional range, and also a wide sampling of my writing. Interspersed with songs, I tell anecdotes from the road and stories about the songs and what I discern is human nature. The show is a mixture of intense music and off the cuff levity.

VENUE SAMPLE:
Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA
Somerville Theatre, Somerville, MA
The Kennedy Center, Washington DC
The Iota, Arlington, VA
The Bottom Line, New York, NY
Joe's Pub, New York, NY
The Tin Angel, Philadelphia, PA
The Point, Bryn Mawr, PA
The Camden Opera House, Camden, ME
The Ark, Ann Arbor, MI
Shuba’s,