Beth McKee is a singer/songwriter from the American South.
McKee is from Jackson, Mississippi, and has also lived in Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. She worked as a pianist as early as age 14, but had few professional female musician role models and chose to pursue a degree in accounting from Millsaps College. After deciding to change her career path, McKee moved to Austin, TX, and became an active part of the music scene. She was invited to tour with her hometown friend Greg "Fingers" Taylor as a member of his female backing band The Ladyfingers for Jimmy Buffett's summer tour in 1990. When the tour ended she moved to New Orleans to join the band Evangeline, providing keyboards, accordion, and vocals. Two months after McKee joined the band Jimmy Buffett, signed Evangeline to his MCA Nashville imprint, Margaritaville Records, and toured as his opening act. The group was successful for a time, and disbanded in the late 1990s.
McKee moved to Orlando, FL, and eventually released I'm That Way in 2009, an album of Bobby Charles covers. Bobby was so pleased with her interpretations of his songs that he invited her to sing with him on his final recording "Timeless." "I'm That Way" was followed by Next to Nowhere in 2012 and "Sugarcane Revival" in 2015. McKee's music has found a resonance with a community called "Swamp Sistas." "Sistas" are typically southern women who are interested in supporting each other artistically and personally. Membership in the Facebook group exceeded 1,500 members in June 2012, and is currently nearing 2,500. McKee describes her perceptions of the group:
- "We have one foot in our roots, one foot pointed ahead, we celebrate what we have in common and learn from each other about what we don't."
With the help of the Swamp Sistas, McKee hosts a roving musical festival called the Swamp Sistas La La, a modern twist on the traditional Louisiana Creole houseparty to raise funds for a communal cause. In 2015, McKee help a Swamp Sista La La in Orlando as part of the Fringe Festival to support the Second Harvest Food Bank, The Peace Foundation, and The Fresh Stop Bus.
McKee has been compared to Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, and Loretta Lynn. Her music features a variety of influences, including blues, Zydeco, Southern rock, country, and gospel. On The Morton Report, Bill Bentley described her 2015 release Sugarcane Revival as "kind of like if Laura Nyro had been roommates with Carole King and Bonnie Raitt on Decatur Street in the French Quarter during the ‘70s." McKee has described Next to Nowhere as autobiographical, in that the lyrics chronicle her decision to record again, following the breakup of Evangeline. Next to Nowhere was well received critically, with its success partly due to McKee's focus on her background and roots, both musically and otherwise.
- Evangeline, 1992
- French Quarter Moon, 1993
- Louisiana Roots, 2001
- I'm That Way, 2009
- Next to Nowhere, 2012
- Sugarcane Revival, 2015
- Ryan, A. It's All About Southern 'Sistas.' All About Women Magazine, July 2012, p. 35.
- McCall, Michael. "Evangeline biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- Abbott, J. Swamp Sistas Sing Out Together. Orlando Sentinel, June 21, 2012
- from an interview on Americana Music Show #255, published July 14, 2015
- Fletcher, C. Singer McKee a True Daughter of the South. Albany Herald, 21 May 2012.
- Cook, A. Next to Nowhere (Swampgirl). Offbeat. June 2012.