Album review of Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa’s ‘Seesaw’

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa
Seesaw
J&R Adventures
****

By Mike Greenblatt

Beth Hart works well with hotshot guitarists. Her live adventures with Jeff Beck are well-documented.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa. Photo courtesy Noble PR/Jeff Katz.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa. Photo courtesy Noble PR/Jeff Katz.

For her second album with Joe Bonamassa, she’s elevated her game to near mythic proportions, as if she’s making up for lost time and doesn’t know how long she’ll have. She sings as if her life depends upon it. And Joe is brilliant in supporting her, giving up the spotlight he’s used to in adding the most delicious fills and exclamation points to her tortured vocals.

She’s got balls.

Who else would tackle Lady Soul’s “Seesaw” and sing it different-but-equal to Aretha herself? Backed by a bevy of heavyweights, including drummer Anton Fig and guitarist-vocalist Blondie Chaplin (complete with keyboards plus tasteful strings and brass), Hart is simply unbelievable (until you’ve heard it for yourself). Opener “Them There Eyes” is done big-band style. Closer “Strange Fruit” (both from the Billie Holiday songbook) is haunting and chilling as it’s supposed to be.  Tina Turner wrote “Nutbush City Limits” but now Beth Hart owns it. Digging deep into the baby-boomer most-cherished-songs file, she breathes new life into Al Kooper’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” from back in the pre-David Clayton-Thomas Blood, Sweat & Tears day.

Whether it’s Buddy Miles’ “Miss Lady” or Al Green’s “Rhymes,” Hart is masterful, totally in control of an incredibly wide swath of emotion, playing with the melodies, and in the process inventing the kind of vocal stretch that only the greats can command. If this is what we can expect, get that third volume readied now!

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