Betty Fox Band – Peace In Pieces
14 tracks; 64 minutes
Betty Fox has been establishing a solid reputation in her Florida base and made the finals of the International Blues Challenge in 2015. Her third album release was recorded at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, thereby fulfilling a long-held ambition as many of Betty’s favorite singers recorded there and that music has clearly been a major influence on her singing style which grew out of church and gospel singing. This very soulful album should introduce Betty to an audience beyond Florida, putting her in a national/international spotlight.
Not only is Betty a powerful singer but she also wrote all bar one of the songs here, her regular guitarist Josh Nelms chipping in with six co-writing credits and bassist Barry Williams contributing to one song; Chris Peet is on drums with Jake Winebrenner replacing him on one track. Muscle Shoals regulars Spooner Oldham and Clayton Ivey provide the keyboards, Brad Guin is on sax and Ken Watters trumpet; backing vocals are by Cindy Walker, Marie Lewey and Betty herself. The album was co-produced by Betty, Josh and Barry.
The album opens brilliantly with a really strong track, “Green Light”, full of gospel harmonies, churchy organ and an earworm chorus in classic soul style. The horns make their entrance on “Winter’s Cold”, a soulful ballad very much in the Muscle Shoals tradition as Betty states that no winter cold can undermine a couple’s love for each other and the lyrical style carries on with “Marie” which has some gorgeous harmonies. “Sweet Memories” has a memorable chorus before the title track provides sound advice for those who have had their hearts broken: “Breathe deep, let go, repeat, and I know I’ll find peace in pieces”. Do check out Josh Nelms’ guitar work here, both funky rhythm and stinging solo, and listen to how he builds his solo over his own rhythm work on “Let Go Or Be Dragged”.
Perhaps the pick of the ballads here is “Runnin’ Back To You” which builds into a luscious chorus with superb organ work by Clayton and attractive embellishments from Spooner on piano and Josh on guitar and displays Betty’s vocals at their soulful best. If you prefer more upbeat material “Feels So Good” certainly does what the title says with a lilting chorus, great harmonies and a fine horn arrangement, topped off by a short but sweet guitar solo. The short and punchy “Rising Strong” is an upbeat shuffle with positive lyrics about moving forward in life.
Things get more serious with “Sweet Goodnight” written by Betty and her stepmother as part of the healing process after the passing of Betty’s father. The two keyboards and Josh’s sensitive guitar playing provide a gentle accompaniment that recalls one of Otis Redding’s ballads as Betty gives vent to her feelings as she remembers happier times with her Dad. Another song that appears to have an autobiographical element is “Shattered Dreams And Broken Toes” which has a latin feel, one that the horns sit out.
Betty diverts from the generally soulful style of the album with the lengthy Americana tune “Fireflies” which, perhaps not surprisingly, was not recorded at Muscle Shoals but in Largo, FL. Betty returns to her church roots with the gospel tune “’Til The Storm Passes By” (Mosie Lister), accompanied just by Clayton and Spooner, to close the album and remind us of how closely linked gospel and soul music can be.
The only reservation here is that Betty’s vocals can become strained at times, particularly when she is conveying deep emotions, as on “Sweet Goodnight” or “Sweet Memories”. When she sings soulfully without over-stretching her voice she is far more effective, in this reviewer’s opinion. Having said that, this is an impressive album with many fine performances from Betty, her regular band and the FAME studio guys.