Shannon Whitworth’s voice can’t help but grab a listener. The singer-songwriter, who is blessed with a set of pipes as sublime as Peggy Lee’s voice, possesses a considerable range.
The laid-back Whitworth’s vocals can be akin to a clarion call or drop to a haunting whisper. Either way, Whitworth, who will make her debut Saturday at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, is an emotive, compelling singer.
“I always enjoyed singing,” Whitworth said. “When I started out, I was so scared. But I got over it. I don’t remember it was because of a shot of tequila. But I got over it because I didn’t want to cheat myself.”
Whitworth, 32, certainly doesn’t cheat herself with her latest solo album, ‘Water Bound.’ That’s not just a reference to her voice, which is in fine form. Her solo debut, ‘No Expectations,’ was on the spare side.
However, ‘Water Bound’ is a fleshed out effort. Whitworth’s voice is accompanied by an assortment of electric instruments and drums.
“It’s been good to add on to my sound,” Whitworth said. “Adding instrumentation is like adding more colors to a painting. It’s that much more interesting for me and the listener. I love using the guitar, the banjo, whatever. I just want to make different sounds.”
Each of the tracks from ‘Water Bound’ is its own entity. Whitworth can easily veer from country to Americana to rock and to bluegrass.
“I think that’s a good thing since I don’t want to make the same music,” Whitworth said. “That would be boring. The thought of being categorized stresses me out. I don’t ever want to be pigeonholed. I think I’m the way I am because of what I grew up on. I listened to a lot of bluegrass, Tony Bennett, Neil Young and John Prine. It was the kind of music that can’t help but rub off on you.”
Her hometown of the last ten years, Asheville, North Carolina, also rubbed off on Whitworth. “Asheville has a huge effect on me because there is music on every corner,” Whitworth said. “Musicians are everywhere and so that definitely has had an impact on me. North Carolina has such a rich music heritage. There are so many different sounds happening here. I can’t imagine being in a better state, as far as music is concerned.”
The former member of the underheralded Biscuit Burners, is looking forward to not only playing the Philadelphia Folk Festival but to also watch some of her peers at the event.
“I’ve heard a lot about the Philadelphia Folk Festival,” Whitworth said. “I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. It sounds like I’ll be playing before the perfect audience, receptive people.”
Whitworth is on her way to becoming a known quantity and then she’ll most likely play before receptive folks, even if she’s not at the Folk Festival. “That’s what I would like,” Whitworth said. “I would like that and I would like to continue to evolve.”
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