Donna Beasley
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Donna Beasley

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
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3 1/2 Stars: Donna Beasley's parents were originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but they moved to Sevierville, Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where Beasley was born and brought up. Her parents enjoyed country and bluegrass (her mother was from a family of guitar pickers and fiddlers) but her brothers introduced her to rock 'n roll and Beasley sang in fundamental Baptist churches. This wide range of influences can all be heard distilled into her music on this impressive debut album, "Good Samaritan".

"No One Here by that Name" has a retro country, Laura Cantrell feel with a glorious acoustic setting and drifting pedal steel. "I'm So Glad I Let You Love Me" is a breezy, up-tempo song with a Dolly Parton flavour that is accentuated by the harmony vocals of cowriter Elizabeth Cook, "Tying Knots in the Air" is a heartfelt ballad and "Run the Roads" hands out travel advice that includes the great line "I can't sleep when your bed is empty".

"There's A Reason" incorporates twangy country with a gospel flavour provided by some rich harmony vocals by Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll. The folk-like sentiment of "Cotton" is delivered by a jazzy accordion, and the memorable lyrics of "No Yesterday" are delivered over a string arrangement that brings to mind a Beatles song of similar title.

One of the most ambitious arrangements is the title song. There is a loping, asymmetric drum pattern that emphasizes the third and fourth beat, with unusual instrumental effects drifting in. It's a brave opener that takes a couple of listen to really appreciate.

Beasley is an impressive songwriter who has a hand in all the original material, with the two covers emphasizing Beasley's rock leanings. "Love My Way" was originally by the Psychedelic Furs and lives up to the originator's name, with the Indian raga-like melody; and the Pat Benatar power ballad "We Live For Love" has been successfully transmuted into a form of rock-bluegrass.

Beasley's voice has a beautiful clarity and impressive range, but also a shade of fragility and understated emotion that maintains an element of tension. There are good supporting performances, including female vocal trio The McCarters, Beasley husband Tom Spaulding on guitar and Tony Paoletta on pedal steel.

The broad range of influences works well, apart from a couple of tracks. The bluesy "After Dark" is rambling with a spongy backing and "City of Devils" is full of indulgent Doors-like psychedelia. As if to clear the palate after all this amalgamation of styles, the album finishes with the beautiful simplicity of "Rise Above", with Beasley singing with Joni Mitchell-like swooping range over just acoustic guitar and dobro. A perfect end to a fascinating album.

Michael Hingston - Country Music People, UK (Apr 1, 2008)
- Michael Hingston


A well crafted set of songs that show what ingenuity, creativity and possibility exists in a place where all too often it is the lowest common denominator that determines success...

…the combination of the pedal steel guitar and accordion is so well executed on the incredible "Cotton" that one is left to wonder why it isn't a staple feature on every country record, it is that amazing and authentic. Good as that is, it still is only augmentation for Beasley's voice on an incredibly original song...

…when she confounds contemporary country, she glows...

…an extremely captivating collection of material that deserves to be heard on a wide scale.

Jay Lengnick - The American Country Radio Network (Sep 3, 2007)
- Jay Lengnick


If my entire vocabulary consisted of only one word, I could still review Donna Beasley's CD, "Good Samaritan", provided that one word was "WOW". A lot of singer/songwriters seem to release albums with 3 or 5 really good songs, some of which may have a legitimate shot at being cut by mainstream artists, and then throw in 6 or 8 of what are usually referred to as "album cuts" or "B-sides". That isn't enough to get you noticed by the powers-that-be in Nashville, or any of the other music centers, any more. Happily, Ms. Beasley doesn't have that problem. This is a strong, strong collection of songs...

...Clearly, Ms. Beasley isn't limited to any one style and, in all honesty, she does them all very, very well....

...Overall, I'd say this is a very, very good record...

Rich Marchetti - The Muse's Muse (Jul 15, 2007)
- Rick Marchetti


"Best of 2007" List!

...Donna has an amazing vocal range...

...Donna is a very good -and I mean very good- songwriter, melody as well as lyrics...

..."No One Here By That Name" is the country song about lost love, with great acoustic guitar, fiddle and plaintive vocal, that should win many Awards...

...Various daring combinations, that work very well for Donna Beasley. Her beautiful, strong voice, with the flawless playing and production (Tom Spaulding) as a bonus, holds it together, while Donna skips through styles!

Johanna J. Bodde - Insurgent Country (Jun 13, 2007)
- Johanna J. Bodde


...Donna Beasley has taken her raspy vocals, calming melodies, inspiring lyrics, and simple, complex instrumentation to new heights in country music. Her exposure to various genres of music helps create an album with diversity for all types of country music fans, young and old...

Courtney Vanderbeck - www.musicnewsnashville.com (Jun 13, 2007)
- Courtney Vanderbeck


If you're feeling jaded and oversaturated with the ubiquitous glut of the end of year posts, then let me recommend Donna Beasley to you. Her debut might just be the perfect antidote. Prick up your ears.

It's a strangely woozy album, redolent with the heritage of Donna's native Tennessee and referencing out to a much broader spectrum of country, pop, bluegrass, even jazz in the vocal delivery. Steady handed and confident, it's compellingly seductive. Give it a whirl - it's hard not to fall for".

- Lonesome Music (Jan 6, 2008)
- lonesomemusic.com


...All 13 songs are keepers, no filler. She has chosen well which numbers to make the most of her vocal style. Her voice has such a presence that all good country singers would trade a leg (or some other limb) for smoky, nasal, sexy, jazzy...

...Good songs brought by a singer with a beautiful and pure voice.

Freddie Celis - Rootstime, Belgium (Sep 14, 2007)
- Freddie Celis


...It's the subtly with which she hones her songs that is most, or perhaps least, apparent. Instead, the sometimes-sparse arrangements and smoky vocals share centerstage, carefully evocative of her vintage inspirations.

Do yourself a favor and go pickup a copy of this disc from Beasley, an East Nashville transplant, flip it into your player and enjoy the moment.

Todd Smith - Sharkbitten.com (May 30, 2007)
- Todd Smith


"Ms. Beasley’s CD has a cast that’s a who’s-who of the Music City alt-country scene, including Chuck Mead, Elizabeth Cook, Kenny Vaughan, Tim Carroll and Bob Britt. On its title tune, her languid vocal spins a tale of small-town romance, pregnancy and betrayal. Highly recommended."

- Robert K. Oermann, Music Row Magazine


On the opening track of Under the Rushes, Donna Beasley characterizes herself as “a hillbilly singer in a town of pop stars,” but the album that follows settles just as frequently, and just as effectively, into a sort of slinky Americana territory, country instrumentation mingling with an untwanged voice that could just as easily veer pop.

As a songwriter, though, her sensibility is firmly country. On “Just What I’m Looking For,” sung with Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll somewhere in the background, she’s feeling a little dangerous, throwing herself into the arms of a man she knows will probably be nothing but bad news in the long term. Meanwhile, title track “Under the Rushes” is a classic story song about emergent womanhood, delivered with strength and clarity from an omniscient distance. The album’s most country moment, though, is “Makin’ Love,” on which a duet vocal from Chuck Mead proves a nice but ultimately unnecessary bonus: Beasley could just as easily have carried the song on the strength of her own performance.

Whether Under the Rushes has any impact with the general audience or not, it should be on the radar of the Nashville recording community, if only so they can pillage it for wildly successful cover versions as they do (or once did) with new releases from Bruce Robison and Radney Foster. At her best, Beasley is that caliber of writer. Here Nashville, I’ll do some of the work for you: resilient Texas rocker “Heart Like a Wound” belongs on Miranda Lambert’s next album, and “The Little Things” is a classic Pam Tillis torch song. Oh, and if Beasley doesn’t have a hit with the title track, some other Americana chanteuse probably could.

An indie album on which I can recommend at least half the tracks is a rarity, so you can bet that checking out Beasley’s previous album, Good Samaritan, just got added to my musical to-do list. - C.M. Wilcox, Country California


press release - july 2010 - July 10, 2010

press release: donna beasley’s new album, under the rushes, set for August 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Donna Beasley’s sophomore effort reads like a who’s who of Nashville’s Americana/Alt-Country scene, including Chuck Mead, Elizabeth Cook, Tim Carroll, Phil Madeira, Kenny Vaughan and more.

NASHVILLE, July 10, 2010

Under The Rushes is set for release August 1, 2010. CDs will be available through CD Baby, Amazon, Smart Choice, and www.donnabeasley.com. Downloads will be available through itunes, CD Baby, and Digstation.Rushes is self-released under the Strange Magic Recordings label.

Under The Rushes is Donna Beasley’s second collection of Appalachian-infused Americana music, rooted in country but encompassing a wide range of styles and influences. Rushes contains 11 original songs, eight written by Donna and three Donna co-wrote with her producer/guitarist/husband, Tom Spaulding. Like her 2007 “Good Samaritan” release, Under The Rushes was produced by Spaulding, with Donna sharing co-production credit this time out.

The approach to Rushes was the same: productions that serve the individual songs without being limited by genre considerations. Rely upon the strength of the writing and Donna’s distinct vocal sound as unifying elements. While the writing and production follow a journey around the musical horn, the voice is firmly planted in East Tennessee soil. The pop-tinged “Really That Good” could be considered the furthermost point in that journey. With it’s Aimee Mann feel, it is an ode to grown-up love without blinders: “No soft focus fuzzy candlelight, no superficial uber-thrill, this could be the real deal.”

“Tom emailed me an mp3 of this happy, pop sounding music. It was so different from anything I had written before. I took it as a challenge. Even though it was a stylistic leap, I still drew upon my own relationship experiences to write the lyric. Tom ended up recording some really inspired, intricate guitar parts. There was never a question of whether or not it would fit some ‘Appalachian image’ or fall outside the Americana realm. Be honest. Try to write a good song. Record it in a way that best delivers the message. Do it 10 or 11 times and you’ve got a record. That’s all I know to do.”

At the other end of the spectrum lies “Makin’ Love.” With its twin fiddles, pedal steel, and harmony vocals provided by Chuck Mead, it is straight-forward traditional country fare: “We’re building dreams, we’re drawing plans, we’ll form a life with our own hands; I think we’ve got the right stuff, sure does look like we’re makin’ love.” When it was merely a germ of an idea, Beasley had a clear vision for it.

“I would call ‘Makin’ Love’ the most rewarding track I’ve ever recorded. I was still struggling with the chorus, had no verses - it probably took me a year to write – but I was driven by the sound of the fiddles and steel in my head! There was never a doubt I would finish it. Chuck Mead was Tom’s idea and he came up with a great part. The initial demo we made for it left a lot to the imagination. So, I had my doubts! I call it the little track that could. I’m so proud of what it became!”

“Just What I’m Looking For” is a mix of styles melded into one track, with Scott Neubert’s funky banjo, Kenny Vaughan of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives laying down some slinky electric guitar, and Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll doing their best “Monster Mash” impersonations…”aah-ooh” in the background. The song is about the thrill of attraction to someone promising nothing but trouble, it’s all wrong, but it’s alright: “you’re a bad man, just what I’m looking for."

The heavier lyrical themes of Under The Rushes can be found in the title track and the record’s closer, “Mountain On My Back.” “Under The Rushes” spins a tale of small-town romance, pregnancy and betrayal, under a judgmental eye some would call unique to the deep Bible Belt South.

The song’s main character falls for “a boy she met at the social when the summer air’d turned cool.” After sneaking out of a spirited church service, they share one intimate evening. Time passes. The boy never returns. After months of hiding a condition for which she fears she would be ostracized, she returns to the scene of her night of passion, this time with a very different purpose: “she went to the banks alone and brought forth a baby son; she said ‘I’ll call him Moses and leave him here floating for when his deliverance comes.’” A different purpose, but the same end result – she lay down her love.

The final track on the record begins with a short, upbeat bluegrass-y instrumental called “Roaring Fork” which morphs into the foreboding drum, droning fiddle and banjo of “Mountain On My Back.” Beasley counts it among her favorite songs she’s written.

“I had spent the weekend in East Tennessee fixing up my mom’s old double-wide trailer. I was driving home to Nashville, thinking about how you can never really get above your raising. How there are some burdens you cannot leave behind. I was thinking about the commercialization of my hometown and how I sometimes wish I could gather up the beautiful parts and take them with me to a safe place where they could remain untouched. I was getting to that westerly spot where you get your last good look at the mountains before getting into Middle Tennessee. The sun was setting and I started writing ‘Mountain On My Back’ while looking in my rear view mirror for one last glimpse.”

The brilliant fiddle of Matt Combs hangs in the air as the final note, punctuating the sentiment of the chorus: “I can’t get out unmolested, I raise my voice to protest it, but secrets deep and ancient settle in the crack; I’m leaving here with a mountain on my back.” She is moving forward - but escaping nothing.

Basic tracks for Under The Rushes were recorded at the Black River Music Group Studio, dubbed “Ronnie’s Place” after former owner, Ronnie Milsap. Besides the aforementioned talents, Under The Rushes boasts Steve Cox, Michael Webb, and Phil Madeira sharing keyboard credits and Tony Paoletta on pedal steel. “You Wouldn’t Know Love,” has Bob Britt and Marco Giovino on guitar and drums, respectively, and was recorded at Tom’s home studio, dubbed Strange Magic.

Otherwise, the rhythm section consisted of Paul Griffith on drums, Steve Mackey on bass (all tracks), and Scott Neubert providing most of the acoustic guitar tracks, while also fulfilling banjo, dobro, and mandolin duties.

Over the year and a half spent overdubbing and mixing, vocals and various instrumental parts were recorded at Ronnie’s Place, Strange Magic Studio, and Anthony Aquilato’s Choctaw Ridge Studio. Michael Webb’s parts were recorded at a couple of long-forgotten stops on the road while Michael was playing and Tom was tech’ing for Leann Rimes’ band. Under The Rushes was mixed by Tom at Strange Magic and Steve Ledet at Subtrax Studio.

“I was blessed to be surrounded by such talented, loving people committed to making the record I wanted to make. It was a long journey from beginning to end. I can honestly say I feel it was worth the wait.”

For more information on Donna Beasley and Under The Rushes, visit www.donnabeasley.com. See website for links to Donna’s MySpace and Facebook pages.
- www.donnabeasley.com


Love My Way, Donna Beasley: Tennessee singer/songwriter gives this Psychedelic Furs tune an eerie, woozy sway.

Brian Mansfield - USA Today (Jun 19, 2007) - Brian Mansfield


5 out of 5 stars: A superb debut release from a new country singer songwriter from East Tennessee, magically mixing both traditional and contemporary and coming up with that often missing ingredient, originality. When I first heard this superb album my heart missed a beat, sometimes you just know that you are listening to something special, something different, something with just that extra little ingredient that will make an album stand out from the rest. With GOOD SAMARITAN Donna Beasley has achieved all of the above and more. To be honest, there is not one bad track out of the featured thirteen. Regular readers will know how much I love a great opener and with title track and opener Good Samaritan Donna nails it. Fans of Alison Krauss will love this, great guitar from guitarist and husband Tom Spaulding and combined with a haunting vocal delivery from Donna, the song telling the tale of a five hour telephone conversation between Donna and a friend in need, it all makes for a stunning track. Cotton follows, this time a song about life in a cotton mill, a life experienced both by Donna’s Father and her Aunt and Uncle. The song paints a perfect picture of life in the mill, and with backing courtesy of Will Barrow on accordion and pedal steel from ace player Tom Paoletta all combining to give the song quite a European feel; it all creates something very different and quite unique. Classic country is the main ingredient on tracks such as No One Here By That Name and the wonderful I’m So Glad I Let You Love Me, this song, a co-write with Elizabeth Cook is a stunner, the track has hit single written all over it and with the glorious fiddle of Matt Coombs and Elizabeth Cook on harmony vocals it really could not fail to be a hit. It isn’t very often that a country singer covers a song by the Psychedelic Furs but with Love My Way Donna rises to the challenge and succeeds magnificently, making the song her own. Favourite track for me is There’s A Reason, a swinging country song about how it feels to fall in love, a bit like falling off a cliff, backwards, a strong song with great lyrics by Donna, it wont be long before this song is covered by another artist, thereby showing the quality of the song. City Of Devils displays a distinct change of direction with some spooky lyrics about life after dark in the big city, the track veering towards stoner rock with swirling electric lead from Bob Britt and Tom Spaulding, once again displaying an originality often sadly missing from a debut. Donna wrote or co wrote eleven of the tracks and they are quite simply, excellent, the only covers being the above-mentioned Love My Way and a countrified version of the Pat Benatar song We Live For Love, with Donna’s interpretation you would never guess it was written as a power rock ballad.

Donna has an impressive vocal range and this album showcases it perfectly, appealing to fans of both traditional country music and Americana and I can personally recommend that you add GOOD SAMARITAN to your collection as soon as possible.

James Soars - Maverick Magazine, UK (Jan 17, 2008)
- The New Voice of Roots & Country Music


Discography

Debut LP: "Good Samaritan" Released 2007
2nd LP: "Under The Rushes" Released 2010

Photos

Bio

Chart Peaks: "Under The Rushes" reached #1 on Roots Music Report's True Country Chart, #11 on the Tennessee Roots Music Chart, #15 on the Freeform Americana Roots Chart, and #18 on the EuroAmericana Chart.

CMT.com recommended "Under The Rushes" on their Bluegrass Playlist for IBMA Week in Nashville, 2010.

Under The Rushes is "an excellent example of song craftmanship...has a cast that’s a who’s-who of the Music City alt-country scene...on its title tune, her languid vocal spins a tale of small-town romance, pregnancy and betrayal. Highly recommended."

Robert K. Oermann - Music Row Magazine

Under The Rushes "should be on the radar of the Nashville recording community, if only so they can pillage it for wildly successful cover versions as they do (or once did) with new releases from Bruce Robison and Radney Foster. At her best, Beasley is that caliber of writer."

C.M. Wilcox - Country California/ The 9513

"Donna Beasley is a rare pure contemporary extension of the musical legacy of Appalachia. There's a dark ruby in her voice, and the forlorn perspective of hope in the face of oppression in her pen."

Elizabeth Cook - Artist/Radio Personality

I have been a door-to-door evangelist; an AIDS worker. A Magna cum Laude graduate; trailer trash. A magician’s assistant; a maid. I’ve been on Prozac. I’ve had whiplash. I’ve rappelled face-forward from 35 feet. My high school was inside a Baptist Church that preached it was a sin to go to movies, listen to rock and roll music, and wear pants if you’re a woman. I had a graduating class of three. I attended every Sunday morning/Sunday night worship service, every Wednesday night prayer meeting, every Saturday morning visitation, every weeklong revival service. Rebellion came in the form of a pair of jeans and a Doobie Brothers album I purchased at age 17.

My dad worked in the same textile factory 36 years where the penalty for showing up drunk to work was the loss of two fingers. My mom’s a heck of a guitar player. I come from Dolly Parton’s hometown in East Tennessee. But I don’t own no theme park.

The first time I ever sang in public was in a 6th grade beauty pageant. I sang “When Will I Be Loved” as my teacher played autoharp. I won a talent trophy. I sang the Lord’s music. I played a Thursday night gig in the “moonshine capital of the world” where people carry knives in their boots and will kill you deader than four o’clock if you happen upon their marijuana stash. It took the right combination of oppression, heartache, depressive episodes, and suicidal ideations before I began writing songs at age 30. I pawned some old wedding rings to buy my first guitar.

“Under the Rushes” is my second collection of what I like to call “Appalachian Fusion Music.” There are 11 songs, eight I wrote and three I co-wrote with my producer/guitarist/husband, Tom Spaulding. There are guest performances by some of my East Nashville neighbors: Americana artist Elizabeth Cook, roots rocker Tim Carroll, and Chuck Mead of BR-549 fame.

The idea for the title track came when I was a teenager. I heard of news stories involving young girls and secret pregnancies, something about shame and fear, and trashcans and school lockers as repositories for the ill conceived. For some it was hard to fathom. I understood.

I also write the occasional happy pop song and something you can cut a rug to. But true to my heritage, the optimism is always cautious, the satisfaction suspicious. While I am guilty of trying to get above my raising, some things, I have found, are not so easily left behind. It gets heavy, carrying a mountain on your back. I guess that’s a fitting title for the last track of the record.

For those familiar with my first offering, “Good Samaritan” (2007), I would describe “Under The Rushes” as less introspective, the themes, perhaps, a little more universal. It seems there’s something inclusionary feeling about living in a dwelling without wheels.

And I’m a little less worried about strong winds.

Bless your heart for listening to my ditties and stories. I hope you enjoy them.