Album review: BETTYSOO – When We’re Gone

BETTY SOO - When We're Gone

[Release date 30.10.15]

I was rather taken with Bettysoo’s last album – Heat Sin Water Skin (2009).  But a lot happens in five years.  For a start, the singer songwriter, and the Americana market in particular, has exploded.

For an insomniac and someone who’s struggled with depression, Bettysoo’s zigzagged her way across the North American and Europe, visited best friends in rehab and driven for days with friends whose lives were crumbling.  The experience has provided the perfect bedrock for a set that captures grief, loneliness, and loss.  As well as fleeting moments of joy and love.

The bulk of When We’re Gone is performed by Bettysoo and producer Brian Standefer who layer vocals, guitars, cello, and piano atop the contributions of a supporting cast of some of Texas’ finest players – Glenn Fukunaga (bass), Dave Terry (drums), Rick Richards (percussion), Joey Colarusso (clarinet and flute), Will Sexton (guitar), and Lloyd Maines (pedal steel).

Once again Bettysoo proves herself to be an individual artist in the mould of Tori Amos.  That is, one who doesn’t go with the musical flow but strikes out in her own direction.

When We’re Gone is perhaps less readily accessible than her previous offering – especially on the more downbeat material which permeates the album, but when the mood lightens – on songs like ’100 Different Ways Of Being Alone’, ‘Summertime’ and ‘Wheels’ which have echoes of Christine McVie’s writing style and could easily sit comfortably in a Mac set – it’s an altogether different proposition.

As is ‘When Love Is Real’ which has tones of Suzanne Vega, and although quietly reflective the beautiful set closer ‘Lullaby’ replete with clarinet and flute accompaniment.  But songs like ‘The Things She Left Town With’, and ‘Nothing Heals A Broken Heart’ are a little too maudlin for comfort.

It’s what you might call a ‘serious’ release, and the juxtaposition of the material reflects a rollercoaster of moods.  I’m just not sure they sit entirely comfortably as a cohesive whole.  But it does mark out Bettysoo as a serious contender in the admittedly saturated contemporary folk market.  ***1/2

Review by Pete Whalley

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