Beth Whitney Takes Her Orchestral Folk Music From The Soil To The Heavens And Back Again On Her New Album Into the Ground

Article Contributed by IVPR | Published on Thursday, March 25, 2021

Washington native Beth Whitney dwells in her songs, exploring every note and phrase, turning them inside out, and pulling the listener into her own journey as an intimate partner; sharing in her joys, her grief, her wonder, her gratitude. Sometimes her songs soar with a hymn-like spaciousness that swirls and spirals upward and transports us in flights of wonder; sometimes her songs echo with a rhythmic cadence that digs into the messiness of our daily lives, going to ground in search of the deep-rooted love that helps us grow. On May 28th on Tone Tree Music, Whitney will share her new album Into the Ground with the world. In what turned out to be an ideal follow-up to 2017’s The Wild Unrest, Whitney shifted her perspective ever so slightly to create Into the Ground. “On [The Wild Unrest] I was looking outward at the world around me,” she recalls. “On the new album, I am looking into the soil. Let’s look into that soil and see what’s happening. Soil is so complex.” With the partnership of producer and mixer Brandon Bee and engineer Matt Terjeson, Whitney’s new collection of songs lands effortlessly on beds of organic and orchestral—and at times overdriven and rhythmic—production; never coming close to overpowering the songs and the voice singing them.

Today, American Songwriter premiered “Two Sons,” the third single from Into the Ground, following “In Another Life” and “Wild Horse.” American Songwriter wrote, “Reimagining the beloved parable in a modern, Americana setting, Whitney’s understated arrangement beautifully serves the winder theme...the video and the song unite to express a timely message of celebrating those who were lost, but now are found”—read the article and listen here. “Somehow over my lifetime, this idea of home has become more familiar, and more foreign, all in the same cosmic breath,” says Whitney of “Two Sons.” “I suppose many of my songs thread-in an underlying search for someone or somewhere that would take me in. This desire to be fully known and embraced is so strong in us and yet so difficult to realize. ‘Two Sons’ is a parable Jesus told and one I’ve never forgotten.” Fans can pre-save “Two Sons” now at this link.

“Wild Roses,” the track that opens Into the Ground, floats in sparsely with thrumming cello and humming vocals; Whitney throaty hums twine around the deep tenor of the bass circling deeper and deeper with a steady cadence. The vibrating gyrations of the song create a mesmerizing, haunting, wraithlike atmosphere, carrying us to places below the surface of our lives. Whitney “wrote ‘Wild Roses’ last winter and had no idea it would be so fitting for the year to come. We are so often unaware of what is happening just under the ground...that a wintery meadow can look like a barren field when really, the soil is busy brewing underneath to be rich and ready to sustain life. I think it's been a season of digging into the ground for wisdom, acknowledging needed work and healing, and hopefully planting healthier things for tomorrow.” Spare, fingerpicking guitar creates a lush sonic bed on which Whitney lays down her tender vocals on “Two Sons.”

“Wild Horse” rides along a jazz-pop vibe that evokes the skittering free-spiritedness of the title animal; the song moves with the passionate spaciousness of a show tune, so it’s no coincidence that the song came to life when Whitney was commissioned by the Seattle International Dance Festival to collaborate on a performance with the dancer Elise Meiners. Banjo rounds open “In Another Life,” a ringing, rhythmic stride that captures our vacillation between looking forward and letting go and looking back and holding on. Whitney wrote the song to express “any unlamented lament because even if the path we’re on is a beautiful one, one that we'd choose again and again; a grief deferred can keep us captive. It can keep us from bringing our whole selves into right now, and I don’t want to do that.” The brisk “Whole Heart” rides on waves of swirling guitars and keyboards as it defiantly resists her heart being torn apart by grief and facing whatever comes with her whole heart. The scampering bluegrass rounder “Huckleberry” percolates with light and love, while the gorgeously languorous “Thunder” unfurls steadily into the heart of grace and beauty. “This song,” says Whitney, “came in one of those early sacred mornings when everyone is still asleep and the world seems almost clear for a moment. This song is a prayer really and the chorus has words from a hymn written centuries ago.” The album closes with a hymn to gratitude and love, with echoing lines that circle around each other in a drenching chorus of praise; no matter what obstacles life throws in her path, Whitney sings, she assured that those who love her have illuminated her path back to their arms.

Into the Ground showcases Whitney’s artfulness as a songwriter and her determination as a musician to stare down the chaos in front of her and weave it into something else. She welcomes grief when it is in front of her because she knows what happens when grief is left out to spoil. Whitney looks straight ahead in her music; it’s the reason Into the Ground takes listeners deep into themselves in search of a common humanity. 

Into the Ground Tracklist:

1. Wild Roses

2. Two Sons

3. Wild Horse

4. In Another Life

5. Whole Heart

6. Moonlight

7. Huckleberry

8. Shelter From the Storm

9. Thunder

10. I Go 

11. You Leave a Light On