Artist: Mary Beth Cross
Title: Beyond Good and Evil
Review by Ross Barber
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Beyond Good and Evil is a collection of original and cover songs, performed by singer/songwriter Mary Beth Cross. Cross is currently based in the Rocky Mountains, which coupled with her upbringing in the rural farmlands of Wisconsin, is a big influence on her music. The album features Stuart Duncan, 2012 IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year, and was produced by Dave Bechtel and Cross herself.
Cross tells stories with a crystal clear delivery and warm sense of compassion. Beyond Good and Evil is inspired by the spirit of America’s pioneers who travelled to the West in search of opportunity. This spirit shines through in Cross’s writing and delivery, and is a fitting soundtrack for America both then and now. Beyond Good and Evil embodies what is so special and unique about the American people, their values and their aspirations.
Opening with “Babes in the Wood,” a song written by Noel Francis Brazil, Cross immediately sets the tone for Beyond Good and Evil. She shows that she is more than capable of interpreting another songwriter’s song, and putting her own folky stamp on it. The production on this track (and the rest of the record, for that matter) is excellent, and certainly does the song justice.
The other covers on the album (“I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired,” “Caledonia” and “Our Love is Here to Stay”) are also of a very high standard. Cross has demonstrated that she has a real knack for performing other’s songs with conviction and artistic respect. “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” is a particular standout; performed completely acapella, Cross really draws you in with her delivery and without any instrumentation to hide behind or to distract from the vocal, she showcases her vocal ability to its full potential. Her version of “Caledonia” is inspired, putting an Americana twist on the Scottish classic, without veering too far from the original. The accompaniment is sparse, allowing the listener to focus intently on the lyrical content. For a song such as “Caledonia” this feels very appropriate, and a great artistic choice on Cross’s part.
Cross’s own compositions sit very equally amongst her cover versions, in fact, if you didn’t know the original versions of the songs Cross has covered, you would be forgiven for thinking they were all her own compositions. The quality is consistent throughout, which is a great testament to Cross’s abilities as a performer, songwriter and producer. Of her original tracks, particular standouts include title track “Beyond Good and Evil,” and the heartfelt “Feels Like Home.”
Beyond Good and Evil is a well produced and sincerely performed collection of original and cover material. Cross has the ability to draw a listener in and tell stories with conviction, compassion and heart, and that is something that absolutely deserves to be heard.