Artist: Mary Beth Cross
Album: Beyond Good and Evil
Review by Matheson Kamin
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Denver-based singer-songwriter Mary Beth Cross is making a name for herself in the music industry. With a long list of influences to draw from that includes the like of Richard Thompson, the Indigo Girls, Bob Dylan, Alison Krauss, Emmy Lou Harris and many others, Cross has started creating her own musical bland that incorporates large amounts of folk, bluegrass, country and other genres. This form of Americana music appears on Mary Beth Cross’ albums, including her latest release, Beyond Good and Evil.
The 2013 release from Mary Beth Cross is an album that incorporates both traditional and cover songs as well as original material written by Cross. Beyond Good and Evil’s blend of original songs and cover tunes creates a CD as strong as anything put out by a major record label.
Beyond Good and Evil begins with Mary Beth Cross’ version of the song “Babes in the Woods”. The first thing that you notice is the clear, beautiful voice of Cross as she sings the song. Cross’ vocals and the instrumentation blend to create a song with elements of folk, country and even a little rock feeling to it. The track has the potential to translate well to a live setting. You can almost envision Mary Beth Cross on stage somewhere like Wolf Trap or The Ryman Auditorium as you listen to the track.
The listener not only gets to experience the voice of Cross on the second track of the release, they also get to experience her songwriting abilities, as well. The album’s title track of “Beyond Good and Evil” features a lot of emotion. Along with Cross’ emotional delivery, the song also features piano and strings to give the track an “orchestrated” feel.
While the vocals of Mary Beth Cross are one of the strongest elements to the Beyond Good and Evil release, nowhere is that more evident than on the African Spiritual “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired”. Sang a’capella, “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” finds Mary Beth Cross creating the track while staying true to the meaning of the lyrics of the composition. The a’capellanature of the track allows the vocals of Mary Beth Cross to shine.
The African Spiritual “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” is followed by the track “Liza Jane,” the story of a freed slave who spends her life looking for the daughter who was sold out from under her. Just like “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” before it, “Liza Jane” sounds as if it were a song that could have been written around the end of the American Civil War, although it was written by Mary Beth Cross. “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” and “Liza Jane” go well together because of the subject matter of each track but also feel worlds apart at the same time as “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” features voice only and “Liza Jane” features a country/bluegrass feel to the music.
On the track “Stories Never Told,” Mary Beth Cross shows her ability to tell a tale while writing a song. The storyline of “Stories Never Told” follows a man who makes a living in the mines until the day he is gunned down as he walked home. The feel of the music suggests that “Stories Never Told” could easily have fit in with songs from singer-songwriters back in the 1960s.
As with the first track of the album, Beyond Good and Evil from Mary Beth Cross comes to an end with yet song written by someone else. “Our Love is Here to Stay,” written by George and Ira Gershwin, was produced in such a way as to suggest a very aged quality to the track. The vocals from Mary Beth Cross, the six string banjo from Mike Payne and whistle from album producer Dave Bechtel were recorded to sound as if they were actually on an old 78 rpm gramophone record.
Beyond Good and Evil from Mary Beth Cross features ten tracks based in folk music. Cross and every musician who helped create the release came together to craft a release that spans, not only many different genres, but eras as well; Beyond Good and Evil from Mary Beth Cross is an album made to appeal to a wide audience of music lovers.