Beth Hart War In My Mind
Provogue – 2019
12 tracks; 52 minutes
Beth Hart is hugely popular and regularly performs at big concert halls and festivals; I saw her perform myself at The Tampa Bay Blues Festival a couple of years ago. However, listening to this album it is hard to find any trace of actual blues in her music, so it seems strange that she is so frequently covered in blues magazines, and now here in Blues Blast. This review will, therefore, take as read that Beth’s album will be of minimal interest to blues aficionados but those whose tastes range more widely may well enjoy parts of the album and Beth’s many fans will be delighted by it.
The album was produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Dave Matthews Band, Goo Goo Dolls), a man that Beth had hoped to work with some fifteen years ago but the arrangement did not work out. Working from a download there was no information on the musicians on the disc but the range of instrumentation and depth of sound on some tracks suggests that a large number were involved. At the core of the music are Beth’s distinctive vocals and piano playing. Those familiar with Beth will know that she wears her heart on her sleeve and her songs are almost confessional. On this album she sings of relationships with her family as well as her well-documented struggles with addiction, the sleeve notes making clear that she feels that she has reached an age where she can accept herself as she is: “I’m comfortable with my darknesses, weirdnesses and things that I’m ashamed of – as well as all the things that make me feel good”. The songs here cover all those aspects.
“Bad Woman Blues” opens proceedings with a touch of gospel in the chorus vocals at the beginning before Beth’s pounding piano begins to drive the rocking tune along. Beth is the bad woman of the title: “I’m not your Momma, I’m not your wife”. The title track is a big production number with strings and dark lyrics about addiction. A solo double bass opens “Without Words In The Way” and that sets up a jazzy ballad with Beth’s breathy vibrato very clear in the uncluttered production. An anthemic ballad entitled “Let It Grow” has stirring lyrics about rising above life’s challenges before “Try A Little Harder” on which Beth goes rather over the top vocally, making the lyrics hard to grasp.
The piano-led “Sister Dear” is almost a letter of regret and an attempt at reconciliation with her sibling, another confessional song with Beth’s voice getting very wobbly towards the end. Musically “Spanish Lullabies” is different to the rest of the album with Spanish guitars and what could almost be the soundtrack to a Clint Eastwood movie. Talking of movies, the next track “Rub Me For Luck” builds into the sort of dramatic, over the top performance that you often get on James Bond soundtracks – maybe they should approach Beth for the next blockbuster? “Sugar Shack” is a pounding rocker with a very 80’s sounding sequencer riff (remember ZZ Top’s Eliminator?) before Beth gives us another lush ballad “Woman Down” in which she confesses to be love sick. The album concludes with two quieter songs: “Thankful” has an almost hymn-like quality as Beth gives thanks for everything she holds dear in life, the song building in intensity from solo piano to a touching finale; Beth claims not to be a hero, rather “I Need A Hero” in a final solo piano piece.
This album will definitely appeal to Beth’s legions of fans and will further enhance her reputation. However, as stated at the beginning, it is definitely not a blues record.