Mascot Label Group/Provogue PRD 7506-2
12 songs — 49 minutes
Fiery Los Angeles-based songbird Beth Hart follows up on her critically acclaimed 2015 bittersweet release, Better Than Home, which earned international recognition, with this tour de force, which is packed full of high-energy, high-power blues for the modern age.
This is the ninth release as a leader for the California native, a 2013 Grammy nominee for Seesaw. She garners acclaim whether she’s traveling the world as the leader of her own group or providing vocals for a string of guitar heroes, including Jeff Beck, Slash and Joe Bonamassa, on their own tours.
Hart rose to prominence in 1999 with the release of her second album, Screamin’ For My Supper, A single from that album, “LA Song (Out Of This Town),” reached No. 7 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart and became No. 1 in New Zealand. A 2014 Blues Music Award nominee for top contemporary female artist, she’s also had two top singles in Denmark, and another disc, Leave The Light On, went platinum, an unbelievable accomplishment for someone based primarily in the blues world.
Recorded in three days by Oliver Lieber — who’s produced Chaka Chan, Lulu and Foreigner, among others — at his home studio in Toluca Lake, Calif., Fire On The Floor features the contributions of several top talents, including guitarists Michael Landau, Dean Parks and Waddy Wachtel, bassist Brian Allen, drummer Rick Marotta and keyboard players Jim Cox and Ivan Neville, aided by Lieber on guitars and percussion and Hart on piano with guest appearances by Eric Leeds and Brad Shermock on horns and Paul Peterson on bass.
Beth penned all 12 of the tunes on this one, most of which deal with seeking an escape from the hard times she described in her 2015 CD. A sweet run on the keys introduces “Jazz Man,” a throwback tribute to the music form, with Hart firing out of the gate with a potent alto voice that’s simultaneously dark as smoke but sweet as honey. “Love Gangster” begins as a ballad but quickly evolves into a Latin-based plea for a “lady killer soul shaker.”
She’s successful, if the next number is true. In “Coca Cola,” she’s in the midst of a new affair, and her new man tastes like the title. Not to be confused with several similarly named songs, “Let’s Get Together” is an uptempo shuffle delivered from the position of a woman who’s been “cooped up all alone/Barely breathing by the phone.” But disappointment follows in “Love Is A Lie,” a blues that states: “You can call it a game/Choose your own name/When it’s stuck in the vein/There’s no greater pain.”
Hart takes a break from the romance theme to describe a “punch drunk street punk” in the funky “Fat Man.” He’s a “fat man in a little coat/Sucking red vines and rum and Coke.” Another view of love follows in the title cut, “Fire On The Floor.” It’s a powerful, slow-blues lament that states: “Love is a fever/And it’s burning me alive/It can’t be tamed or satisfied.” Even so, Hart keeps crawling back for more.
A pair of similarly themed numbers follow. “Woman You’ve Been Dreaming Of” is a quiet slow blues that speaks to a man who’s talking in his sleep about another woman despite being married with kids, while “Baby Shot Me Down” is a funky, upbeat tune with a Latin feel. But Beth gets her revenge. Instead of hiding away, she confronts him and makes him pay. In the aftermath, however, she finds it’s a “Good Day To Cry.” That ballad precedes two brighter ballads that bring the album to a close. In the tender “Picture In A Frame,” she yearns for her guy to return home. There’s more yearning in “No Place Like Home,” which sings its virtues from the view of someone who’s spent too long on the road.
Slick and beautifully textured throughout, this release is contemporary blues at its best. Make no mistake: Even though Beth Hart’s audience extends well beyond traditional circles, there’s no mistaking that blues is strongly imbued in every cut of Fire On The Floor. Fresh and highly recommended.