Lowcountry native to have Cinderella night at Dock Street
By Harris Cohen | Wednesday, June 13, 2012
If you go
What: Shannon Whitworth
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St.
Price: $15 in advance, $20 day of show
For more info: 577-7183 or www.etix.com
Shannon Whitworth has been quite busy lately. She recently released a duet album of cover songs with bandmate Barrett Smith, recorded an album of original songs with a hopeful release in a few months and completed songs for three Belk commercials, all while continuing to perform live concerts.
Her captivating voice can be described as a combination of the velvetiness of Norah Jones, the clarity of Sara Bareilles and the presence of Amy Winehouse, wrapped in a Southern flavor with a touch of bluegrass.
This Lowcountry native has played numerous gigs in the Charleston area over the past couple of years, but calls Friday’s concert at the Dock Street Theatre “a Cinderella night.”
“I’m thrilled and honored to play and am humbled,” Whitworth said, comparing the venue to the venerable Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.
The attitude for her new album of “just letting go rather than over-thinking” led to working with Charleston’s own Bill Reynolds of Band of Horses to create a more stripped-down sound than her last critically acclaimed effort, “Waterbound.”
With the desire to make the album more raw, she recorded the songs live with her band rather than tracking the instruments individually.
“There was a synergy and cohesiveness which captured the essence and soul of the songs,” Whitworth said.
The result is songs where Whitworth’s sumptuous voice stands out with more contrast.
“I had the attitude that less is more, and it felt cleaner not always having to decorate every note and phrase,” she said.
Keeping to her coastal Southern mind-set, the album is tentatively titled “High Tide.” The songs continue Whitworth’s adept style of melding contradictory feelings of passion and anguish through intense lyrics while entrancing the listener with her captivating voice and delivery.
To finance the album, Whitworth raised more than $20,000 on the Kickstarter funding platform.
“I thought I would never do something like that, but I wanted to create the album myself independently and it be my baby,” Whitworth said.
Once the songs are mastered, she plans to take the project to labels to gauge interest for marketing and distribution.
The title song flows like a sequel to “Run to Roll on Home” from her last album, with the melody and subject of capturing the joy and happiness of arriving home from lesser tasks.
Keeping with the stripped-down vibe, Whitworth drastically transformed “Don’t Lie” into a bluesy reverb version compared with the version on her previous album. Unconventional, but it works masterfully, with Whitworth saying, “This is how the song should have been done initially.”
Whitworth keeps her song ideas in many journals, and the moodier “Henry” sat incomplete for many years.
While perusing prior notes, Whitworth said she could not read the last verse and was so intrigued she looked up an old friend on Facebook who had also broken up with her boyfriend and had shared the same heartache experience to see if she had or remembered the missing words.
Whitworth reworked “Hot August Evening,” a song originally done with her previous band, Biscuit Burners. This version paints a vivid picture with a less bluegrass feel and instead a more bluesy-pop ballad that easily belongs on today’s country and pop radio formats.
“Isis” sadly concludes the collection, contemplating the loss of a loved one. The song accentuates Whitworth’s flawless ability to express feelings into words.
“There’s a place I go sometime. To ease this grieving mind. To tame the pain, the pain of losing you. I lay there in the grass. Try not to keep looking back/I hold you in my heart eternally. Raging river let me cross/to the other side I’m lost. I just want to see your face. I don’t want to, I don’t want to celebrate.”
While touring with just Smith, they would put their iPod on shuffle. Seeing similar interests, they decided to record a random mix-tape of some of their favorite songs.
“We aimed to go in and record songs, not create an album,” Whitworth said. “The eclectic variety of song styles pushed us out of our comfort zone.”
The “Bring It On Home” album of covers takes on a jazzy feel with songs including fresh versions of such American standards as Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire,” Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and “You Are My Sunshine,” while also including the mambo “Sway” and bossa nova “Corcovado.”
Whitworth said it was a magical world with each song, but she “fulfilled a fantasy” in covering her idol, Julie London, on “Sway.”
Particularly standing out are Whitworth’s performance in “Green Grass” and Smith’s lead on Van Morrison’s “I’ll Be Your Lover, Too.”
An enchanting night should ensue with Whitworth previewing songs from the unreleased album along with duets with Smith and songs from her previous albums.