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Sarah Bethe Nelson

With her breathy voice and knack for catchy but artful melodies, Sarah Bethe Nelson sounded like a precocious indie pop newcomer with the release of her 2015 album, Fast Moving Clouds. The truth is Nelson was a seasoned veteran of the California music scene when her solo debut finally expanded her reputation outside her hometown. Nelson was born in Sacramento, California in 1977 and grew up in the nearby foothills. In 2004, she formed the roots rock band Prairiedog with Rusty Miller of Jackpot; the group released its first album, To Set Your Calendars on Fire, in 2006, and with the help of musician and producer Kelley Stoltz, cut a second album, The Golden Hour, in 2011. Founded in Sacramento, Prairiedog had settled in San Francisco before they finally called it quits in 2013.

Nelson then found herself with a batch of songs that reflected a different creative direction than her old band had. Many of the tunes were informed by Nelson’s job as a bartender at the Mission District tavern the Make Out Room. Teaming with a handful of musicians she’d met through her days with Prairiedog and her nights at the Make Out Room, Nelsonbegan crafting a moody and expressive new sound, and she once again teamed with Stoltz to cut her first solo project.

Fast Moving Clouds was picked up for release by the well-respected California indie label Burger Records, and it immediately made an impression with bloggers and critics, especially the song “Paying,” written from the perspective of a woman working at a watering hole confronting a man who has broken her heart and maxed out his bar tab. Her follow-up, Oh, Evolution, was recorded by Phil Manley (the Fresh & Onlys, Moon Duo) and released in early 2017. Her new 2019 album “Weird Glow” is out on Burger Records in June.

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