Origin: Mt. Nebo, WV
Years Active: 1996 - Present
Martha Bassett’s caramel-toned alto sounds right at home in music of many varieties; from Americana to jazz, folk to country gospel, she always sounds exactly like herself. As a singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Martha’s emotionally honest performances make people feel as if she is singing directly to them.
A native of West Virginia, Martha has made a home for herself in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad. She has performed at Merlefest, the Eastern Music Festival, the Shaker Hills Grassroots Festival, and concert venues throughout the region, as well as touring nationally. Her bands have been as eclectic as her tastes, combining talented players from classical, jazz, folk, and rock traditions. She has taken great delight in mentoring young musicians, many of whom have filtered through her band before moving off to begin their own projects. Each iteration of her band has reflected Martha’s musical interests at the time. Common threads throughout her career include vim and vigor in her singing and her collaborations with some of the strongest talent in North Carolina.
This penchant for making music with others lead to her most recent project, The Martha Bassett Show, which she hosts monthly at the historic Reeves Theater in Elkin, NC. Martha serves as band leader and curator, playing her own music and collaborating with guests. Each show features national, regional, and local artists of varying genres, with a particular interest in presenting female musicians. Martha relishes this ever-expanding community as an expression of her cheerfully innovative hospitality.
Martha has released eleven records to date (including two with Martha and the Moodswingers and two with The Carolina Chamber Jazz Players). Her current band released its second record in May 2019, called “Hot Pepper Queen.” To see their calendar, visit marthabassett.com.
Winston-Salem Journal, 2019
Fans never have to wait long to hear her try something different. It helps that Bassett has the chops to tackle such a range of material.
“She can hear like crazy — her ears are incredible,” said Matt Kendrick, a jazz bassist and educator who has played with Bassett since the late 1990s. “She worked on Charles Ives pieces a lot when she was an undergrad. She sang this incredibly hard music. So she can sing anything you throw at her, pretty much.” - Eddie Huffman
O'Henry Magazine, June 2015
Watching Martha Bassett perform, one is immediately struck by the obvious — her crystalline voice, unpretentious good looks and comfortable stage presence. But there are a few other elements at play that are more subtle. Most of the time she plays with her two longtime mates, to her right, guitarist Sam Frazier, and to her left, standup bassist Pat Lawrence. Onstage there is a balance, a certain symmetry, with her being the centerpiece with the three functioning as a single, harmonious unit.
Unintentional though it is, that stage balance is a mirror of her career, indeed her life. Hers is a story of balancing the personal and professional, the secular and the spiritual, the creative side and the business side (the latter being something that musicians are notoriously bad at). She has perfected that oft-precarious balancing act with poise and aplomb.
Classically trained (bachelor’s in music at University of Kentucky and master’s in music/voice at UNCG), the central West Virginia native settled in the Triad after grad school and a short stint in the banking business that, “Let me know exactly what I don’t want to do.” She discovered early on that versatility is one of the keys to sustainability, as evidenced by her wide-ranging repertoire that taps into jazz, country, bluegrass, folk, rock, swing, Americana and torch songs.
She fronted Martha and the Moodswingers, a popular jump-swing ensemble, for several years, recording two albums with them. A large chunk of her work also involves church music at both Centenary Methodist in Winston-Salem and the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Greensboro.
Martha’s gift as a songwriter is not to be denied, another reason she has succeeded where others fall by the wayside. She has recorded seven albums and is working on her eighth.
“I’m hunkering down, spending a lot of time alone writing songs,” she says. “I have a lot but if they’re not unified in my head, they don’t go together in a cohesive way.” - Ogi Overman
Go Triad, April 2011
Singer and songwriter Martha Bassett has long been a respected icon of the Triad music scene with her classically trained voice, which has been described as “angelic” and “crystalline.” This month, with the release of her fourth album, “The Goodbye Party,” Bassett gives listeners a glimpse of her personal diary with a versatile palette of songs that either send shivers down your spine or make your toes tap
No Depression, March 2011
Intricate and resoundingly captivating, each song takes me further into a scene: ingesting intelligent conversation amongst smoke and divine food, swirling a glass of cabernet, all softly illuminated by haunting brass tones and a tall centerpiece candle. After this introduction, I had to see and hear more.
Winston-Salem Journal, 2009
Martha Bassett, a local vocalist with few peers, enunciated each and every word with pristine clarity -- to the point where the music became not just a joy but a revelation of wit and vivid imagery. And it underscored that Bassett is among the few singers who can deliver Rodgers and Hart with such warmth, expression of feeling and care. - Ken Keuffle
Connect Savannah, May 2008
This combo from N.C.'s Triad area hangs out at the nexus where cocktail jazz, tearjerker C&W and classic torch-songs spoon up against cooler-than-cool Western swing. Vocal Bassett plays the role of sultry ingenue to the proverbial "t," and her come hither stare, vintage ribbon-style microphone and slinky duds have noir temptress written all over them.
With instrumentation that includes lap steel guitar, upright bass and trap drums played with steel brushes, this is a group that knows how to draw the listener in with sparse arrangements and plenty of negative space. That austere approach may be a bit of a liability in a chatty room such as this, but something tells me this front woman, whose sound has been rather accurately described as Hank Williams meets Peggy Lee meets k.d. lang (now there's a dinner party!) can handle it with aplomb. That devil-may-care-attitude likely served her well when she recently had the daunting honor of opening for the one and only Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. - Jim Reed