Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Beth Hart - Fire On The Floor

So how do you like your Beth Hart? Angsty chanteuse offering tales of life's trials? Or perhaps the gutsy belter of choice to heavyweight guitar honchos? On Fire On The Floor you'll find a healthy portion of the former, but rather less of the latter. What you'll also get, on the opening tracks here, is Hart as princess of sweet soul music - and it suits her.
'Jazz Man' lives up to its title with some piano-tinkling, horn-tooting, scat-singing grooves.
Beth Hart demonstrates jazzy soul leaning
'Love Gangster' has an easy Latin rhythm and drawling vocals, and a naggingly familiar, twanging guitar line in the background – feel free to comment if you recognise it! But it's 'Coca Cola' and 'Let's Get Together' that really catch the ear. The former, with its blissfully languid opening, is a sexy, summery song of youthful innocence, in contrast to the songs of strained experience that are often Hart's stock in trade. The latter, meanwhile, shows that Amy Winehouse wasn't unique in being able to expertly execute funky soul-lite with a Dap Kings vibe.
A bonus of this soulful style is that Hart tends to smooth out her trademark vibrato, which often serves her well but begins to grate if she sticks to it relentlessly. But if you’re a fan of her quavering, confessional side then there are several examples to savour here.
Top of the list is the ineffably sad ‘Woman You’ve Been Dreaming Of’, with spare piano chords, bowed bass and brushed drums underpinning images of a woman losing her husband.  Hart conveys the mundanity of the woman’s everyday chores with shades of Paula Cole’s ‘Where Have All The Cowboys Gone’, but adds a twist of infidelity to complete the cruel picture.
‘Good Day To Cry’ is a torch song with strong echoes of Lorraine Ellison’s ‘Stay With Me’, with Hart’s vibrato recalling what was so good about Elkie Brooks at her best.  The title track finds her conjuring up hints of Billie Holliday and Nina Simone, depicting the ennui of a stale relationship, shot through with flashes of bitterness.  Closing the album, ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ is piano-led, simple, and evocative, outlining the things that give us security in life.
The punchy ‘Fat Man’ provides some variety, with its stabbing vocal phrases in the verses and a driving chorus.  ‘Baby Shot Me Down’ executes a crisp change of gear too, with a shuffling, twitchy beat and bluesy piano, and a familiar sounding, descending chorus.
Fire On The Floor underlines Beth Hart’s versatility as a writer and interpreter, conjuring up images and feelings across a range of styles and moods.  The jazzy soul leanings are a delightful surprise, and when she nails a ballad she really nails it.  She may get tagged as a blues singer, but there’s a whole lot more to her work than that.

Fire On The Floor is released in Europe by Mascot/Provogue on 14 October 2016

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