Album of the Week 17-2014: Beth Hart – Bang Bang Boom Boom

Listening to mainstream radio suggests that there are hardly any good female solo artsits left. Luckily, those who have the patience to look slightly underneath the surface will stumble upon the downright amazing voice of Beth Hart quite quickly. The raw emotion in her voice has lead to many – partially justified – comparisons with the great Janis Joplin, but she is able of much, much more than just that. And while Hart has been releasing quality albums quite regularly, her most recent ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ is by far the one I play most.

Maybe it’s the cooperation with South African producer Kevin Shirley that opened Hart up to a slightly different approach this time. Over the course of her carreer, she has proven herself more than sufficient at Blues, Soul and Rock and while she continues to do so, there are some other influences creeping into the songs on ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’. Check out ‘Swing My Thing Back Around’ for instance. Despite the fact that it makes complete sense to hear Hart’s strong voice with the big band vibe of the song, it is something of a departure from her earlier work. However, it is trusted enough to not alienate her audience. In fact, the experimentation on the album is very likely to make her audience grow.

Two songs on ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ rank amongst Hart’s past masterpieces such as ‘Delicious Surprise’, ‘Skin’ and ‘Am I The One’. Opening track ‘Baddest Blues’ has an exciting build-up in tension, with Hart’s voice adapting to every shift in atmosphere, seemingly without any effort whatsoever. When she gets to her tortured blues howl, goosebumps are guaranteed. And let’s not forget that she’s an amazing piano player as well. This song is the ultimate proof. The other masterpiece is the heart wrenching Blues of ‘Caught Out In The Rain’. This is Beth Hart at her Joplin-est best, in a fantastically written, brooding Blues number.

Other highlights include the powerful ‘Better Man’, the energetic Gospel tribute ‘Spirit Of God’, the swinging title track and the charming little number ‘The Ugliest House On The Block’. But really, I’ve said this about certain singers before, but it’s definitely true for this one: Beth Hart’s voice could even transform the busy tone of a phone into something pleasant to listen to. That’s how good she is.

In the end, it’s her compositions and the instrumental backing that elevates this album above the rest of her discography. While ‘Screamin’ For My Supper’ contains a few of Hart’s carreer highlights, some of the tracks make use of drum programming that annoys the hell out of me. ‘Bang Bang Boom Boom’ is a strongly written, authentically sounding and – what else would you have expected? – fantastically sung record by one of the greatest singers on the planet today. It’s not often that you get a chance to listen to someone with this much talent, but also the emotional gravitas to pull it off with the necessary conviction. Beth Hart is that unique.

Recommended tracks: ‘Caught Out In The Rain’, ‘Baddest Blues’, ‘Better Man’

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