Beginning at the Wilderness, Shawnee’s sixth album, is a collection of deeply personal stories carefully chosen from a seemingly endless well of over 500 songs (not a typo; she writes four a month as a strict discipline). At the helm of the ship was producer Zachariah Hickman of Josh Ritter’s Royal City Band, orchestrating an all star team of studio musicians, including Sam Kassirer, fellow Royal City Band member and producer of some of Ritter’s best known works. The album was largely tracked live in the 200 year old New England farmhouse known as the Great North Sound Society, an intimate melding cohesion undeniable to the listener. Hickman’s understated, thoughtful, and ethereal arrangements provide a shimmering ambience worthy of pieces like “Blue Moon Shine,” “Little America,” and the stunning “Ode to England.” The album’s emotional lighthouse is “Freeze the Sailor,” where she taps into the poetry of her father who was lost to suicide when she was nine years old. She connects just as beautifully with Abraham Lincoln in “Abraham,” written in his voice. Ruthie Foster recorded and released her cover of this extraordinary piece in 2017 without ever having met the composer at the time.
Shawnee grew up in Bellingham, Washington, learning guitar and writing songs wholly on her own as a teenager, initially motivated only by the dream of meeting and marrying rock star Daniel Johns, frontman of the Australian (then also teenage) band silverchair. Songwriting proved to be an altruistic calling and eventually led her to Austin, Texas where her fourth album, A Long and Precious Road, was among Texas Music Magazine’s albums of the year and landed her alongside artists like Kacey Musgraves and Leon Bridges on their list of Songwriters of Distinction.
Her fifth album, Back to Eden, was the unlikely collaboration between her and Joss Whedon, famous TV and film director, writer, and producer known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They had not previously met, writing most of the songs via email while he was filming for Marvel’s Avengers II.
Since then Shawnee has grown determined to share as many of her 500+ songs as possible, which she does by way of the Songbird Society, i.e. her Patreon page, as well as securing herself a small slice of unique Austin music history with her all original no-repeat weekly series called Wonder What Wednesdays which occasionally finds her song swapping with local legends like Chris Gage and Jon Dee Graham while hundreds of songs deep into her repertoire (literally - the series is on pandemic pause at 256). Sadly it will have to find a new home after the closing of Threadgill’s Old Number One.
“One of the year’s finest albums. With a compelling voice at once uplifting and heartbreaking, delicate and wounded, and with melodies dexterous and irresistible, Kilgore has, in one bold move, established herself as an important presence in folk music. This is a gorgeously crafted work. ” - Tom Buckley
— Texas Music Magazine
“....one of the most wonderfully gifted singer/songwriters I've ever heard.” - Eric Lichter
— Dirt Floor Recording and Production
“Shawnee Kilgore is to music as velvet gloves are to diamond cutters. She holds all this beauty in her hand, raw and untouched, then she chips away until it gleams in the light, holding on with a soft gentleness that she has perfected.” - James Hardesty
— Green Frog Acoustic Tavern
“Shawnee Kilgore is that rare breed of songwriter who can lead you through familiarity and somehow always end up with you somewhere surprising. Her songs are personal and intimate, snapshots of tiny images very close up, of little observations so familiar and yet so keen that they reconnect us to our every day while somehow managing to disconnect us from our every day enough that we can notice the preciousness of what’s always surrounding us. It’s a hell of a nifty trick! Shawnee’s in my very highest category of songwriter: Those whose next song I can’t wait for them to write.”
— Danny Schmidt
“...a real mix of childlike wonder and dark sophistication.” - Margaret Bikman
— The Bellingham Herald