Every so often the humidity in Austin, Texas, Leeann Atherton’s adopted hometown, hangs so heavy in the air that even a few minutes out-of-doors feels undeniably sultry. Then a storm breaks open the sky and rain flows like cosmic champagne, and when the sun comes out the next morning a magnificent breeze caresses the town, smelling like it just got in from the Atlantic coast.
Something similar happens listening to Leeann Atherton. Like the singer herself, who came to Austin via Charleston and Nashville, her songwriting suitcase is full of a seamless blend of twang, soul, gospel and blues owing a lot to Leeann Atherton’s background. Steeped in southern roots, stewed in Texas blues, raised by a hillbilly housewife and an Alabama gentleman in Charleston, South Carolina, away from the shopping mall culture, she put herself through college singing in a beach music dance band. She studied the spirituals of the South Carolina islands, sat in with a rural black choir, and joined the hardened professionals at work in Nashville song factories. “I loved the way those Ft. Worth boys sang “baby””, Leeann gleams. A road trip to Texas was all it took, and Leeann’s independent roots flourished in the fertile musical ground of Austin.
Her first Texas recording sessions at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio introduced her to Robert Earl Keen’s acclaimed guitarist and producer, Rich Brotherton. Forming a musical friendship, his musical style completed her first independent release “Only Glory”. Rich was chosen by Steppin Stone Records to produce her acclaimed Americana recording “Lady Liberty”, garnering #1 in local and independent charts (Austin Chronicle, No Depression), and receiving international airplay. Her musical journey continued with self produced releases “Mama’s House” an acoustic/electric blend of twang and folk and “Every Day Dream” a soulful look at the blues. Joining forces with the legendary Slim Richey, they recorded a CD of Jazz standards “Limited Edition”. Her recent collaboration with Russian composer Zhenya Rock produced “Gypzee Heart”, a blending of their respective folk cultures. With her current release, “Heart Traveled Road”, Leeann returns to her roots with Rich Brotherton in the producers’ seat again, along with a cast of Austin’s #1 List of session players.