Review: Beth Hart – ‘War In My Mind’

Beth Hart Being a Beth Hart fan offers up a serious dilemma. On one hand her continued success in the UK means reaching a larger audience and regular tours, but on the other she was always an artist that you wanted to keep for yourself.

You didn’t mind paying extortionate Ebay prices for import copies of ‘Immortal’, ‘Screamin’ For My Supper’, ‘Leave The Light On’ and ‘37 Days’, it felt like you were part of a secret appreciation society. Gigs? Unless you could get to Holland then chances of a gig were remote. She was the proverbial “best kept secret”…and that kind of felt good. Her first proper UK tour brought out many of us who honestly thought that we would never see Beth Hart without a plane journey. Watching her total amazement as fans would call out for tracks from the earlier albums is a genuine gig-going highlight.

Fast forward and now Beth Hart is releasing albums every other year, constantly touring, and even selling out the Royal Albert Hall. Hardcore fans could sit with a grin on their face as she stole the show on Jools Holland’s annual hootenanny. That knowing, smug sensation that comes with the feeling of “I told you…”. Part of the reason that you wanted to keep Beth Hart for yourself, is that she has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you are the only person in the room with her. Pop on one of her albums, go to one of her gigs – she is singing straight to you. No-one else exists. Just you, and her. But, her material and her talents deserve to be heard on a much larger scale. So putting selfishness aside, how incredible is it having a new Beth Hart album in 2019, and watching as the broadsheets fall over each other to lavish praise on her?

The evocative album artwork hints at the darkness that can be found within the album, but opening track ‘Bad Woman Blues’ bucks the trend. A powerful ode to a woman who has no interest at all in being good, Hart best sums it up herself; “I’m not your mama, I’m not your wife, I’m not the one who’ll make it right, good girls always lose, I got the bad woman blues”. Hart paints an empowering picture of a woman doing it her way, regardless of what people might think.

The title track is up next and as the artwork depicts, it’s Beth dealing with storm clouds. In this case the storm clouds represent her struggles with addiction, and the feeling of being unable to go on. It’s a piano driven ballad, but not a gushing, syrupy ballad, instead it’s raw and heart-wrenching, as well as reminiscent of the amazing Carly Simon (as is ‘Try A Little Harder’). The swells are glorious, and the end result is a towering piece of music that lingers on for some time after. Hart stays at the piano for ‘Without Words In The Way’, another gentler moment that sees her baring her soul for all to see. ‘Let It Grow’ quickly follows on and is perhaps the standout moment on the album. Again, it’s ballad-like, but a vocal performance that could stop a charging rhino. The addition of backing vocals takes it to another level, this one is going to take a lot out of Beth Hart if she performs it live, a real show-stopping moment. With its Latin tinges, ‘Spanish Lullabies’ ups the tempo and offers some lightness, while ‘Rub Me For Luck’ simply screams “James Bond theme song”. ‘Sugar Shack’ was always going to be an ass-shaker, and it is certainly that, propelled forward by a vibrant drumbeat that is impossible to resist. The stripped-back strains of ‘I Need A Hero’ brings a very moving album to an emotional conclusion with a tour de force vocal performance.

On the many softer moments on the album, it’s spine tingling hearing her rein in the power in favour of a restrained performance with powerful lyrics. Her vocals are stronger than ever, and this is Beth Hart at her very best. She has undoubtedly one of the strongest voices in music today, not one of the strongest female voices, one of the strongest voices, full stop.

Available now on Provogue Records.

Review – Dave

Beth Hart image on header – Greg Watermann

Full European Tour Dates

2019

24 Nov – Aarhus Musikhuest, Arhus, DENMARK
26 Nov – Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DENMARK
29 Nov – AFAS Live – Solo , Amsterdam Zuidoost, NETHERLANDS
30 Nov – AFAS Live, Amsterdam Zuidoost, NETHERLANDS
02 Dec – Theatre Du Lemon, Geneve, SWITZERLAND
04 Dec – Volkshaus, Zurich, SWITZERLAND
06 Dec – Forum Karlin, Prague, SZECH REPUBLICH
08 Dec – National Palace of Arts, Kiev, UKRAINE
10 Dec – Arena Aemeec Sofia, Sofia, BULGARIA

2020
31 Jan – Vicar Street, Dublin, IRELAND
02 Feb – Ulster Hall, Belfast, N. Ireland, UK
05 Feb – The Dome, Brighton, UK
08 Feb – Eventim Apollo, London, UK
09 Feb – Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK
12 Feb – St David’s Hall, Cardiff, UK
14 Feb – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, UK
15 Feb – The Sage, Gateshead, UK
17 Feb – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK
20 Feb – City Hall, Sheffield, UK
22 Feb – Pavillions, Plymouth, UK
24 Feb – O2 Guildhall, Southampton, UK

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