Bethel Steele is a touring singer-songwriter based out of Boston, MA, whose music is something of an amalgam of Lori McKenna, Ani DiFranco and Neil Young. With a smoky alto and a playing style that ranges from driving rhythm guitar to delicate finger-picking, Bethel's songs find the intrinsic beauty in whiskey-soaked one night stands, the stories of thrill-seekers and the unrelenting passage of time.
Bethel's September 2013 release, Broken Record, is a 5-song EP that has influences from the blues, bluegrass and the story-telling folk genres, recorded at Fox Run Studio and engineered by Neale Eckstein (who co-produced Bethel's 2012 release Of Love & Whiskey). The EP begins with the track “Words of Wisdom,” a bluesy reminder of all the advice your parents gave you about living life to its fullest. “Words of Wisdom” is followed by a pair of out-of-love songs: one is an unapologetic goodbye to a love grown cold (“Broken Record”), the other is a song to a crazy ex, an upbeat banjo-breakup song entitled “So Long.” The fourth track on the EP is a longing-filled banjo instrumental (“At Sea”) and closing out the project is the anthemic ballad “Bigger Prize” that begs the question: who wants easy, anyway?
This has been quite the year for Bethel, who was named a Club Passim Iguana Fund ricipient, a Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Finalist, a Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Emerging Artist Finalist as well as a finalist in the CT Folk Festival's Songwriting Competition. All of these accolades came after the successful release of the June 2012 album, Of Love & Whiskey.
Of Love and Whiskey, was co-produced by Neale Eckstein, of Fox Run Studio/Fox Run House Concerts and Jagoda, NYC percussionist of Swamp Cabbage. The new record as a whole, is a journey, beginning with "BASE," a suspenseful, open-ended song about a thrill-seeking adventurer with Greg Greenway on piano, and closing with the uplifting gospel-inspired "Blue Skies." John Apice, a reviewer for NoDepression.com, writes this about Bethel's writing on this album: "Steele knows how to tell a great story, adorn it in bright musical colors and deliver confidently... [with a] deep, beautiful cognac flavored voice surrounded by a wealth of original material. Bethel is confident and sings with authority... Bethel has eyes, ears and heart open, pencil sharpened and sees what many other artists seem to miss."
Hailed as "deep and inspired" by Italian reviewer Remo Ricaldone (www.bcmai.it), Of Love & Whiskey reached the #17 position on the Folk-DJ Top Albums in June 2012 and the #16 position in the Roots Music Report's Top Folk Albums in July 2012. The record was included on a number of 2012 'Best-of' lists including those by DJ's Joltin Joe of WMSC 90.3FM, Montclair, NJ and Jim Canales of WWSP 90FM out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Steele released a full-length self-produced studio album in 2009 entitled Come Home, after moving to Boston. This record was the result of many musicians bringing in their own sound and adding it to the soulful lyrics and driving rhythmic guitar that has become a trademark of Bethel's music. The album has tastes of a country upbringing, dashes of pop and rock, but is nailed in the folk genre. Bethel was described as a "sultry-voiced young folk performer a far cut above" (Francis DiMenno, The Noise Boston) and regarding the record itself, Darius Ripps of 'Oliver di Place' music blog heralded 'Come Home' in the following words: "The singer-songwriter movement started in the early 1970s. By now, it can be called a tradition, and with Bethel Steele, it is in good hands."