Shannon Whitworth And The Refugees
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Shannon Whitworth And The Refugees

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"Sweetheart Of The Banjo"

This week I get to engage in one of my favorite annual rituals: my St. Valentine’s Day Soul Party. A combination of laziness and disinterest in the lives of others has meant I’ve always been single on that particular feast day. This would bother a man of less shallow emotional material, but I feel like I’m dodging a bullet. While the suckers of the world drop five hundred dollars on jewelry and dinner, I dust off my copy of Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (incidentally, also the best record cover art EVER) and spend the night sweet-talkin’ a bottle of Four Roses. But all this may be coming to a crashing halt—and it’s all because of bluegrass.

Here’s the story: Friday night, Shannon Whitworth, a young bluegrass singer from Brevard, North Carolina, will play at the Barking Legs Theatre. I’ve spent some time with her debut CD No Expectations over the past few weeks, and she’s an interesting and sporadically brilliant musician, with a smoky singing voice that reminds me of a grittier Neko Case or a harder Patsy Cline. Whitworth’s technical skills as a musician are clearly copious. She’s a talented enough player and singer to know when to shred (insofar as plucky Appalachian-spiced music “shreds”) and when to back off and let her voice tell the story. Best of all, though, is her skill with lyricism—she’s like a female Rhett Miller. And that is a dangerous and wonderful proposition.

Rhett Miller is the leader singer/songwriter for Texas’s No Depression heroes the Old 97’s. He and Whitworth both have a knack for writing excellent character songs; the sort of bottom-of-the-bottle, desperate-for-love tunes that leave you exhausted and wracked with every conceivable emotion even tangentially related to love. Like Miller, Whitworth writes the type of songs that make Valentine’s Day tolerable. When I mention to her that she reminds me of the erstwhile leader of the 97’s, she begins to talk about the cathartic nature of a career as a musician: “A sense of peace in yourself is really important...but a lot of good stuff comes out of being in a funk.” Turns out she’s exactly right. The constant struggle to fill your songs with meaning becomes its own reward; every heartache becomes material and the very nature of the job allows the singer/songwriter to grapple with their feelings in a way that is both public and private. If Whitworth weren’t such a good musician, I’d like to see what kind of actress she’d be.

All of which is not to accuse Whitworth of being the same type of miserabalist as Rhett Miller. Actually, she’s one of the nicest and humblest musicians I’ve ever met. She notes how strange she finds it that people even care about her music: “It’s weird, ‘cause I’d be doing this anyway,” she laughs. I fell in love with her exactly four and a half seconds into our conversation. So, this Valentine’s Day, instead of dancing around my house alone, I’m going to be listening to one of the most electromagnetic bluegrass performers in the country. But I’m really going to miss those Otis Redding records.

- The Chattanooga Pulse - Seth Wilson


Fiery Mountain Music (2004) - The Biscuit Burners
A Mountain Apart (2005) - The Biscuit Burners
No Expectations (2007) - Shannon Whitworth



Over the past several years, Shannon Whitworth's impact in the world of Americana music has created lofty expectations by fans nationwide. As a founding member of acclaimed acoustic quartet The Biscuit Burners, Shannon received national praise for her definitive songwriting and captivating voice.

With her debut solo release, Shannon reminds us that innocence has No Expectations. Pure, strong, and heartfelt, she catches the ears and touches the hearts of even the most unsuspecting bystander.