by Janet Goodman
“It’s like starting over again. It’s like the beginning of music for me. At 40 years old, I feel like I’m five,” says blues rocker Beth Hart about making her newest album, “Bang Bang Boom Boom.” She’s had a decade of a comeback since losing her major label deal and tour, starting with recovering from substance abuse and getting a handle on a bi-polar condition. Acclaim in Europe followed and now finally with the release of this special record by Mascot Label Group/Provogue, Hart ought to brace herself for America falling in love with her voice all over again.
Exposed in more ways than one, from her provocative lingerie pose on the album cover, to her honest lyrics, to those open-wound vocals, the artist lays it all out there with more than a few moments of startling music that, to borrow from her liner notes regarding her own inspirational mentors, can change a heart and mind for the better. This is a record of dichotomies: soul-baring and hopeful sentiments, vintage and contemporary sounds, all wrapped up in her impossibly rich tone and mesmerizing phrasing.
Recorded in California and produced by Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith), the album’s eleven tracks are all written or co-written by Hart, who also plays an accomplished piano alongside a gathering of fine musicians. At the get-go in “Baddest Blues,” Hart is powerful and biting: “If this is love what was I thinking/If this is love what the hell am I gonna do/And that man has got me sinking/To the bottom of the blue.” More rocker than blues singer on her full-voiced vibrato-ed “Better Man,” she’s waylaid by loving the wrong guy and gives a soulful James Brown-worthy performance on “Caught in the Rain” backed by Randy Flowers’ seething guitar work.
At times flirting with gospel, reggae and even cabaret vibes, it’s her blues-infused pieces here that really hit a listener in the gut, such as pop rock “Thru the Window of My Mind,” which is co-written with Rune Westberg and is sonic perfection beginning to end. There are a handful of other fortunate co-writers on this project who could have conceivably offered up proverbial first-borns, right arms and the like for the chance to collaborate with this deep-well artist; she is a songwriter’s dream. Hart’s work is compelling; her singing is a master class and sets the bar high for blues artists to come.
Visit the artist’s website at www.bethhart.com
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