The authentic artist digs even deeper
There are many things that Beth Hart can be described as, but inauthentic isn’t one of them. Since she first broke through with the 1999 hit “LA Song (Out Of This Town),” she’s been turning out raw, emotional, blues-based songs to a devoted yet never quite a mainstream audience. She’s struggled with vices such as drug addiction and mental challenges such as bipolar disorder, but she’s always been very open about those issues and wears them on her sleeve. Twenty years after her first big song, she’s set to release a brand new album, titled War In My Mind.
It’s pretty obvious given Hart’s tumultuous past that the ‘war’ in her mind refers to all of her previous problems, so it makes sense that the singer describes War In My Mind as her most intimate and personal album yet. This winds up working out quite well because artists tend to always write their best music when it comes directly from the heart.
Hart opens her most recent journey into her soul with the bouncy, upbeat, piano-driven rocker “Bad Woman Blues,” and her powerful Adele-style contralto makes a vicious stamp right off the bat. But this turns out to be a massively misleading song: the rest of the album is largely somber, consisting of either slow blues jams or minimalistic musings. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a bad thing; her voice fits just as well over bare-bones arrangement as it does with a full band.
Despite the appeared homogeny in the songwriting, there are definitely some distinct moments on the album that can’t be missed. The soaring “Let It Grow” features uplifting lyrics accentuated by a call-and-response with a gospel choir. “Spanish Lullabies” sounds, Spanish influenced, with its sexy flamenco drumbeat and violent acoustic guitar strums. And in perhaps the most surprising moment, “Sugar Shack” adds backing synths and an EDM-influenced rhythm section to what would have otherwise been a jaunty blues number.
The only time where Hart runs into trouble is her occasional over-reliance on hooks. A couple of times she falls into the trap of repeating the song title several times in a row. But that’s merely a small negative, not enough to overrule the fact that War In My Mind is a fantastic listen.