Beth Amsel grew up in wide-open spaces — her intimate songs have a Colorado front-porch feel — but she did not start out there. She fled her native Long Island, N.Y., at age 13 for greener pastures.
“The part of Long Island where I grew up was a stereotypical suburban landscape, one part cultural wasteland, one part strip mall paradise. Public school was a mix of Lord of the Flies and Married to the Mob,” Amsel says. “There was a costume, big hair, tight jeans, black eyeliner, that never felt authentic to me. I always felt as if I had been dropped off at the wrong address. When I had the opportunity to leave the area for Fort Collins, Colo., I didn’t hesitate.”
A midnight telephone call from an acquaintance bartering bail money in exchange for an acoustic guitar went forgotten for two years before Amsel cracked open the guitar case and taught herself to play. The exceptionally long and cold winter of 1994 gave her plenty of time to learn the instrument and start writing songs. Her first full-length album, A Thousand Miles, released in 1997 on cassette tape, earned her a fanatical folk following in the vibrant Northeast music scene. It was released on CD in 1999 and was soon nominated for a Boston Music Award for Best Debut Album.
Then Amsel took two years off from touring. “After being on the road nearly non-stop for about six years, I was desperate to be home and lay down some roots,” she says. “I married my great love, bought an unfinished house with my husband in the Colorado mountains, finished the house by hand, raised a yellow Labrador puppy into a great dog [Stella, the WonderDog] and worked on a book of short stories. I still did a big annual show in Boulder, but put The Egg, my touring minivan, in the garage and left it there! It has been wonderful to finally make a home, especially at 8,500 feet in a lodge pole pine forest, but I was starting to get antsy to perform out and about again. This tour has reinforced the fact that there is nothing else in this life I could do for a living!”
Amsel is touring with fellow singer-songwriter and friend Jenny Goodspeed. “I met Jenny Goodspeed when she showed up at my house in 1995 for a singer-songwriter pot luck gathering. The mid ’90s was a great time to be an upcoming performer in Boulder, as there were so many creative people doing their thing and so many open mics and open stages to try it all out,” Amsel says. “Jenny has a beautiful, delicate soprano voice so very different than mine, and I just adored her from the get go. I am so very happy that she finally agreed to come out on the road with me. She has just released her debut record, Under the Ash Tree, and this is the first time she has toured nationally. I couldn’t be more pleased to introduce her to my listeners!”
You can expect to hear songs from Amsel’s new recording, The Reverie, and possibly a cover of Jay-Z covering a Bobby Bland tune. Amsel looks forward to playing in Indianapolis again. Her 2005 CATH, Inc. concert was standing room only.