Beth Hart – Front and Center: Live from New York | Album Review

Beth Hart – Front and Center: Live from New York

Provogue/Mascot Label Group

CD and DVD Set – CD: 15 Songs, 72:00 Minutes, DVD: 54:28 Minutes

Styles: Jazz and Soul-Influenced Blues, Piano Blues, Electric and Acoustic Blues, Live Album

The Big Apple is the acid test, the launch pad, the point of no return for many an artist. A few reach the stratosphere while others crash and burn. Thankfully, L.A.’s Beth Hart has done the former. She’s not a pure blues musician, often infusing it with jazz, soul, and contemporary rock. The counterbalance to this is her remarkable voice, warbling one moment and wailing the next. In a day and age when the megastars of the pop world lean on auto-tune more and more, it’s refreshing to hear Hart’s heart poured out in every note. On Front and Center: Live from New York, she presents eleven original songs and four covers, each one as unique as a thumbprint. The DVD included with this set features all the tracks plus an interview. Overall, it’s a stunning performance, whether it conforms to the standard definition of blues or not. Another tip for those tackling New York: have at least one avant-garde entry in your repertoire. This CD features several, with Hart’s oeuvre reminiscent of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.

In her DVD interview, Beth provides keen insights into this particular concert and her music in general. In regards to why she loves the piano so much, she says, “It’s the altar, man. It’s where I go to pray. I mean, that’s really what it is. It’s been that way since I was a kid.” She’s also very dedicated to her mother’s memory, and invited her fans to share videos of themselves with their moms at her manager’s insistence. “They really responded…I remember crying when I first saw it. I gave [Mom] a lot of grief coming up, and I never had children, so…around 40, I was like, ‘Oh, my God. My mom loved me so much, and she did everything for me. Music helps me kind of find my way in the world.”

Performing along with Hart on vocals, piano, acoustic guitar and bass are Jon Nichols on electric and acoustic guitars as well as backing vocals; Bill Ransom on drums, and Bob Marinelli on bass. Sonny Landreth guest-stars on guitar.

The second track on the album (and the DVD) has a piano intro to die for – and be reborn so one can listen to it again:

Track 02: “Baddest Blues” – Truer words were never spoken when it comes to this song’s title. To feel its full impact, watch as well as listen. Echoes of Don Henley’s “New York Minute,” both in style and in message, send chills up and down fans’ spines. “My love has come along. My dream’s become a song. My days are bright and sunny; funny why I’m so blue.” Terrific guitar and drum work adds to this masterpiece of slow blues. Move over, Sheryl Crow.

A must-have for any piano blues fan’s collection, Front and Center: Live in New York reveals the heart of Beth Hart in a way one won’t soon forget.

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