We were spellbound by Megan Bee‘s previous album Waiting, ranking it #1 on our Top 10 Albums of 2020 and calling it, “wonderfully uncomplicated, genuinely soulful, and as storied as its creator – a true masterpiece that showcases stellar Bee’s songwriting skills.” You can therefore imagine our excitement to find that Megan is back with another full-length project. Cottonwood doubles down on all of the things that have become synonymous with Bee’s musical style – minimalistic, holistic, and authentic to the core.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
The opening track Cottonwood Leaves immediately highlights all of the most memorable features of Bee’s work. Her vocals take the center stage behind uncomplicated instrumentation, bringing the likes of Margo Price and Amanda Shires to mind. The acoustic guitar and the banjo are bright and hopeful, further illustrating an anticipatory romantic question asked under the cover of a serene nature scene – another hallmark of Bee’s writing that weaves itself into nearly every track on the album.
The dreamy pedal steel lullaby When The Beach is Asleep brings the coastline to life in a way you’ve probably not seen before. Bee takes us through a slice of life in a touristy beach town, but highlights those who stay behind when the seasons change for the colder. It’s a fresh take on a subject that has perhaps had thousands of songs penned about it, urging the listener into a new point of view:
“The roads are all closed and
The ferry route is frozen
Charlie’s little bar is the
Only place open
And we sit around the woodstove
Us few left behind
Eating boiled clams and oysters
Passing bottles of wine”
Things get a little grittier when we arrive at Snowplow. At the center of this track is a carefully crafted and clever metaphor, comparing an inconsiderate admirer to the unrelenting force of a snowplow. The addition of the electric guitar brings an especially bluesy feel to this number, a new sound for the album, but the consistent theme of simplicity is maintained all the while, making it a welcome and texturally interesting inclusion.
Anyone who’s ever run through the backcountry with a sibling will have their heartstrings pulled by Sister. Once again with nature at the forefront of the scene, this story of childhood curiosity and forging an unbreakable bond is pure nostalgia. The moments of brief laughter that emerge from Bee’s grounded vocals are pure poetry.
We also love the vulnerable Americana confessional Fever, and Fast Johnny for its fun and infectious story about – in Megan’s own words – “driving really f-in fast.”
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
Something Bee does as well as any folk songwriter out there is craft immersive stories that never feel contrived. On this album, arguably the best example of this is on Ecstasy. Not only does she tackle the difficult subject of drug use with grace and humility, but she does so in a way that absolutely humanizes the experience, taking the demon out of something that is often disparaged and replacing it with something a little more beautiful:
“We were doing ecstasy under the desert sky
In the sand dunes on the 4th of July
We were watching fireworks, trying to figure out how things work
We were staring at the colors in each other’s eyes
And I want to see you look that way again sometime
I want to see you look that way next time maybe without the drugs next time”
Megan Bee‘s work never ceases to impress, rising above and beyond all expectations. Her songwriting is beyond expert level, her voice is the perfect vessel for her down-to-earth stories, and the deftly chosen musical arrangements only serve to elevate this album to the next level. Cottonwood is as real as it gets – a raw and real telling of engaging, relatable stories from an absolute gem of an artist, whose work could easily stand tall among the music of legends in the folk space. Set your calendars for 2/14/22 and stream Cottonwood for yourself.
BELOW: Listen to Cottonwood and connect with her website and social media platforms. Please support Megan Bee by visiting her online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing her music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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