Brevard singer is ready for her (musical) close-up

Brevard’s Shannon Whitworth has received raves for her homegrown third solo album, “High Tide.” With it she takes a step further away from the banjo-picking bluegrass she cut her teeth on with the Biscuit Burners after moving to Boone to study at Appalachian State.

“I found a great vacuum repair shop on my way to class one day, and that is where I got some of my first lessons on bluegrass,” she says. “Some old-timers that worked there would get together and pick, and offered to show me some things.”

A vacuum repair shop may seem an odd hub for music, but Whitworth – who returns to Evening Muse Friday – is full of quirky stories like that. She met Bill Reynolds (Band of Horses), who helped craft “High Tide,” when she picked him up hitchhiking. They’ve been friends ever since.

Reynolds and producer Seth Kauffman helped Whitworth find the vibe she was looking for on “High Tide.”

“I love what (Bill) brings to the table,” she says. “He is open and clear with his ideas in a way that is inspiring. He knows how to pull the truth out. He and Seth share that quality. Seth and I have been involved in some capacity musically for almost eight years. All this history lent itself to easing the process.”

“High Tide” is certainly an easy listen, from the upbeat ’80s country-meets-AM-pop playfulness of the single “You Are In Love” to atmosphere created by rich, psychedelic reverb and Whitworth’s smoky, sometimes torchy delivery on tracks like “Don’t Lie.” There’s still country twang in her voice, but there’s also shadows of classic Rita Coolidge and Carly Simon-style ’70s folk-rock.

“ ‘High Tide’ was penned from a more happy and lighter place,” she says.

“I love to create music from the ground up,” says Whitworth, who lives on a small farm in Brevard. Making ‘High Tide’ was unlike any other record I had made. We recorded all the tracks live and raw. It felt honest and cohesive.”

Even before “High Tide,” Whitworth – who grew up in Virginia and along the coast in South Carolina and Georgia – was making a steady career climb. She toured with Chris Isaak and the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. She is currently one of several musicians featured in the Belk department store’s Modern Southern Music campaign – the latest in its rebranding effort.

Whitworth had never modeled outside her own press photos and CD covers. But she’s a natural.

“Shannon’s the epitome of a modern, Southern woman. She’s humble, gracious, beautiful and sings from her heart,” says Katrina Streiner, VP of creative services at Belk.

Streiner met Whitworth through friend and graphic designer Kara Hollinger-Bulla, who won an Addy Award for “High Tide’s” packaging.

Adds Streiner: “She’s 5-9, thin and easy to style. I’ve seen her play numerous times. She is surrounded by all these male musicians on stage, and she pops off a dark stage in color. She has the whole package.”