You'll be hearing a lot more of Shannon Whitworth's name in the not-too-distant future, probably alongside others like Jerry Douglas or Tim O'Brien. "The next Alison Krauss" may indeed be a more difficult moniker to shake than "formerly of the Biscuit Burners," but the Brevard, N.C.,-based songwriter and banjo player's music is as strong in her newly blossomed solo career as ever.
Fresh off the release of her pleasantly haunting debut album, No Expectations, Whitworth comes to town with fellow former Burner Jon Stickley on mandolin. "Time has put us in a place where we can anticipate what the other person's doing," says Whitworth. "It feels so good when you can hear that."
Whitworth's also recruited pedal steel and dobro player Matt Smith and Mike Ashworth on bass, and perhaps, drums. "I got freaked out recording the CD, because it was my first time playing with drums, but it adds texture," she says. "It's not straight-ahead drumming, but colorful, tasteful percussion."
After leaving the Biscuit Burners last fall, Whitworth returned to western N.C., working with the Boys & Girls Club, teaching pottery, and spending time canoeing the lake on the farm she lived at as a caretaker. "My church is definitely nature, water, and the elements," she says. "A lot of my songs come to me when I'm outside."
Whitworth describes the experience of recording her arrangements with recruited session players as "magical." "I was nervous it would sound sterile, or like Muzak, but they dissected the songs and wanted to know what they were about," she says. "They carried the instrumentation over to that. One of them came out crying."
Her music is like that. Whitworth's voice is as passionately sincere as the lyrics she writes. She'll make a believer out of you. —Stratton Lawrence