Since their debut in 2007, Shannon Wurst and her voice — the one that wraps around you like a sweet, slow slick of molasses — have firmly established themselves at the intersection of everyman folk and Americana rooted in the traditions of Kasey Chambers, Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton.
By turns plaintive and playful, Wurst’s songs wade into the deep waters of lost love, winding rivers and small-town gossip before setting their lyrical sights on lighter fare, including an ambitious (and dare we suggest metaphorical?) ivory-billed woodpecker masquerading as a black crow in 2010’s critically-acclaimed What’s More Honest Than a Song?
A 2011 review by Jivewired called the album, Wurst’s sophomore solo effort, one of the most quietly beautiful records of the year, describing her sound as that of “backpack-wearing broken-heart balladry” with “a bittersweet honesty that reads like a musical diary” cut by a sense of “wide-eyed optimism infused with a charming levity.” Indeed, Wurst’s songwriting blurs the line between the prosaic and the poetic, melting the everyday into the lyrical without losing sight of the inherent irony therein.
The singer-songwriter got her musical start growing up in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, where she learned to play on a borrowed guitar featured in 2010’s “Old Wood, New Wires.” In 2007, she released her debut album, Sunday Pie, followed by 2009’s 3 Penny Acre, a collaboration between Wurst (guitar, banjo, vocals), Bernice Hembree (upright bass, vocals), Bayard Blain (guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, vocals) and Bryan Hembree (guitar, brush bucket, accordion, vocals). Wurst followed 3 Penny Acre with a return to her solo roots with What’s More Honest Than a Song? In 2011, she released her first children’s album, Green and Growing: Roots Music for Eco-Kids.
Recent live performances by Wurst include appearances at the Eureka Springs Bluegrass Festival in Eurkea Springs, Ark.; Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest; the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas; and The Palace Theatre in Crossville, Tenn. She is the recipient of the Northwest North Carolina Regional Artist Grant, was a semi-finalist in A Prairie Home Companion’s “People In (Their) Twenties Talent Show,” and was twice nominated for a Native American Music Award (NAMA), as songwriter of the year and as female vocalist of the year. She has composed music for Trike Theatre, a professional theater company for youth based in Northwest Arkansas, is a member of the Arkansas Arts on Tour and the Arkansas Arts Council Arts in Education rosters, and has twice been selected as a Folk Alliance International Official Showcase Artist. Radio and television appearances include the “Fancy Mayhem Show” on DittyTV.com, along with the nationally syndicated “Folk Sampler” with Mike Flynn, Daniel Gold’s “Honest Tunes Radio Show,” and a live studio appearance on “Blue Plate Special” with Matt Morelock. Wurst’s music has been featured on FolkAlley.com and FrontPorchRadio.com, and she has opened shows for Robert Earl Keen, Milk Drive and Railroad Earth.
In mid-2012, Wurst took a break from cross-country touring in her Dodge Sprinter — a utility van converted into a rolling home for Wurst and a bevy of musical instruments — to return to the studio to record her fourth solo album, Lionheart Love. Inspiration for the forthcoming collection comes from Wurst’s recent travels, a release of wanderlust marked by indulgence in moments of quiet introspection, stops at junk stores, run-ins with a cult or two, and a concerted effort to learn to conquer love, both past and present, requited and unrequited, on a scale lived large.