Blues and Soul Review
That difficult second album? In 2011, the pair got together and cut one of the best albums of that year, “Don’t Explain,” a glorious collection of fabulous soul covers with some completely off the hook vocals from Beth, and spine tingling guitar skills from Joe. Well guess what? They have gone and done it again.
“Seesaw” is perhaps a tad more “produced,” but it is truly magnificent. The song choice is once again spot on. Beth’s vocal on the title track is breathtaking. To cover an Aretha song, penned by Don Covay and Steve Cropper and first released by Covay, is a brave move. But she just does what she does with those pipes, and you almost forget what came before.
As she does on “Nutbush City Limits,” which she told me was thrown at her with half an hour’s notice on the last day of recording. Puts Tina’s killer vocal out of mind for that moment. Trust me. A genius choice of cover for her, down to uber producer Kevin Shirley.
I am not going to try to explain who Joe and Beth are, and what they have done in their careers here. You should know, and if you don’t, go find out. But it doesn’t really matter because the music here speaks for itself. Joe sums it up nicely. “It takes you back to the ‘50s and ‘60s, when most of this music was first made and there was no studio trickery. It was just raw talent.”
That goes for his playing, the killer band and most definitely Beth’s effing awesome vocals. She sings ‘em all like she wrote ‘em all. No mean feat; to take on classics associated with such icons as Billie Holiday, Aretha and Etta James and be a rats’ testicle away from making them your own.
Their first album together two years ago charted in 10 countries, including the UK. A big hit. This one will do even better, I am sure of it. Their pairing is like fish with chips, salt with pepper and Morecombe with Wise. Natural partners.
I love the risks Joe takes in his career and how he ventures into all sorts, and never stays safe. Does he ever sleep? Here he is very understated and restrained, but when he lets fly; boy does he let fly.
But Beth’s voice is the superstar among sparkling stars here. I am sure Joe will not mind me saying that. I think she could probably sing the contra indications leaflet on my blood pressure tablets, and make it sound world class!
The CD kicks off in retro style with the 1939 Billie Holiday classic "Them There Eyes." Another side to Beth. Donnie Hathaway’s slow burner, "I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know" smacked Beth between the eyes when she saw Amy Winehouse sing it on the internet. Alongside Aretha, Etta James is Beth’s biggest inspiration, and she delivers two of her songs; “Rhymes” and “Sunday Kind Of Love.”
The closer "Strange Fruit," was covered by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and is a haunting and atmospheric version of a song that began as a poem about American racism and lynching, and probably Beth’s crowning glory as a hugely talented vocalist here.
“Seesaw,” was what CD players and good speakers were invented for.