CD: 11 Songs; 48:14 Minutes
Styles: Mellow Ballads, Soul-Influenced Blues
What’s Better than Home? Nothing, as L.A. chanteuse Beth Hart proves on her relaxing twelfth album. Blues purists and idealists be warned: Only two songs, “Might As Well Smile” and “Trouble”, might be up to the genre’s exacting standards. The rest are low-key, soul-influenced songs, with all eleven tracks being originals. This CD is nothing like recent claims to fame on her collaborations with blues rocker Joe Bonamassa. Here, she’s squarely found a niche in mellow ballads. Sadly, in the liner notes of the promotional copy of Better than Home, there is zero mention of Hart’s studio musicians on the album.
Beth possesses a robust alto voice that’s one part Sheryl Crow, one part Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs, and one part Tracy Chapman (even though Hart herself is Caucasian). She frequently employs a Chapman-style vibrato, rougher than most, with a breathy touch. No one can accuse her of sounding like every other female pop or blues artist out there, and that’s fantastic. In Beth’s career so far, she has had hit after hit on chart after chart. She has had iconic guitar legends performing with her, top music producers and musicians eager to work with her, ever-growing audiences flocking to her shows in the US and Europe as well as newer ventures into Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Armenia, and several other countries.
Looking over the last 15 years, this is her most introspective work yet with songs from the depth of her soul. It is a mature piece of work full of sincerity. The themes and musical messages are about acknowledging that things weren’t perfect, and there’s always a better place that you can go to help you move on. This album isn’t about what’s been wrong with Beth’s life. Instead, she’s choosing to find the good things that have been there all along, like in “Might As Well Smile” she faces her fears head on: “When the talking on the tv /Tells me I should be scared / I don’t let it overwhelm me / I know that joy will be there / Behind every tear….”
In “Mama, This One’s for You”, Beth finally accepts and loves her parents for who they really are: “For all the things I never said / I’m sorry that I never did / I thank you for your precious time / For teaching me how to climb….”
The song “Tell Her You Belong to Me” finds Hart tenderly appreciating her good husband,“… And you belong to me / Tell me to come / And like hell I will run / Back into your arms / Cause you belong to me….”
Ultimately, in both “Better Than Home” and “As Long As I Have a Song,” Hart finds ways to heal and convert that positive energy into music that moves people. She sings in the former, “I am not afraid or lonely / I am not chasing the ghosts of the past / I have found the place where hunger / Meets the edge and now I’m facing God….” In the latter, Hart reflects, “Pour me a dream / And play me a tune / And I’ll get along / Just as long / As I have a song.”
For Beth Hart fans ready to hear a mellow, deeply reflective and personal album, check this one out. To a sincere Beth Hart, naught is Better than Home!