Review: Beth Hart – War in My Mind
Provogue / Mascot Label Group (September 27th 2019)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
Can’t remember when I first saw this she devil of a woman but it may have been on Jools Holland’s show and just thought, WTF! What a voice and what a stage presence. I have been hooked ever since. I mean, who else would start a show at the Royal Albert Hall in the middle of the audience, singing unaccompanied and walk through said audience to the stage. So let’s get straight in there!
‘Bad Women Blues‘ starts with some contemporary woahs and electronic hand claps and then into then into big chopping verse which builds to the chorus and I am hooked on this bad woman. Blues with a contemporary twist. The opening lilting piano of ‘War on My Mind‘ gently introduces a song with deep and dark subject matter. The songs rises and falls beautifully as do Beth’s vocals. ‘Without Words in the Way‘ opens with what sounds like an upright bass and for a moment I am expecting Tom Waits to come blustering in. Instead I get Beth Hart in gentle, lilting mood and she lightly builds into the song with a jazzy feel to it. It really swings superbly in my humble opinion with piano, bass and percussion.
‘Let It Grow‘ moves back to a more contemporary feel with the vocoder style intro before Beth and her trusty piano pick up the thread of this song. The contemporary feel continues throughout the song with a superb chorus and the introduction of a great bank of female backing vocals giving it a slight gospel feel. Continuing with the contemporary and melodic feel I could almost image ‘Try A Little Harder‘ on an early Toto album. The song is uplifting and bounces along until the half-time breakdown for the middle eight and then leads back into an uplifting with Hart doing some Cleo Lane adlibs in places! ‘Sister Dear‘ is just classic Beth Hart and piano. With a little bass and percussion and some strings, the songs just tells its story about her sister Susan.
We are now into the second half of the twelve songs and it kicks off with a suedo-Spanish feel. Not surprising as the song is called ‘Spanish Lullaby‘. It is a full band affair with bass and drums driving along with guitar and Hart kicking up the gears a little vocally. The pace drops for ‘Rub Me For Luck‘ with electronic style percussion in the laid back verse. Just as you are lulled into a false sense of security lilting piano, the chorus bursts in and it sounds like a Bond them tune which Shirley Bassey would have been proud of! Superb!
‘Sugar Shack‘ sees Hart venture into an almost danceable beat reminiscent of early Stevie Nicks. The song bounces along on a pulsating hi-hat rhythm with the she devil weaving her meandering spell with her silken vocals across this song lifting and dropping as she sees fit. We crop back into some laid back blues piano for the intro to ‘Woman Down‘. The structure of the song reminds me again a little of Tom Waits with the light and shade building to a crescendo at the end with percussion and bass. The penultimate song sees Beth in a happier reflective mood with ‘Thankful‘. Returning to the more contemporary side of this album the song builds from the simple piano and vocals and slowly building with drums, bass and guitar. Sadly, we are at the last track but it is a fitting end for a Beth Hart album. ‘I Need A Hero‘ again opens with piano and vocal interplay that is this lady’s specialism. This continues throughout the song and is archetypal of some of her live performances, where the band seems to disappear and is never quite sure of when they are going to be invited back onto stage!
I am not sure if I can pour enough superlatives on this album. It’s Beth Hart adding a little contemporary feel and it works spectacularly for me. Yet it still has some of the trademark Beth Hart blues, melody and angst we have come to expect and adore. Simply fantabuloso! Roll on Valentine’s Day when myself and Mrs Scallan have the pleasure of this lady’s company at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.