Bette Smith's Jetlagger: Brooklyn Grit Meets Mississippi Soul 

click to enlarge bette_smith_jetlagger.jpg
Bette Smith hails from Brooklyn, and her latest record keeps the longstanding ties between New York and the Mid-South as strong as ever. In truth, the record is all North Mississippi, with Magnolia State native Jimbo Mathus serving as musical director, guitarist and organist. Memphians Marc Franklin, Kirk Smothers, and Susan Marshall all pitch in as well. What the band brings to the record is an eclectic blend of rock and soul with one foot in the garage, which suits Smith's pitch-perfect, rough-hewn vocals to a tee.

Smith's voice is a force of nature, simultaneously dramatic and unaffected. When Mathus' crunchy guitar or cheesy tube organ lines bubble up out of the mix, they are a perfect complement to Smith's gritty delivery. The album as a whole exudes that golden period in the '70s when soul was absorbing rawer rock elements, yet before production conventions became too polished. True to its old school spirit, Smith tracked her vocals live with the band, and it pays off when the slightly unhinged dynamics of the songs take flight with her, making for a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. Smith's “I Will Feed You” and Mathus' “Durty Hustlin'” are standouts in this regard. Meanwhile, the band nods to its ancestors with a gritty cover of Isaac Hayes' “Do Your Thing”. As a whole, this is a powerful reminder that rootsy soul need not follow too closely in the footsteps of its forerunners, as long as its heart is in the right, raw place.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Film/TV/Etc. Blog


Intermission Impossible

1776: Theatre Memphis Makes History With a Solid Revival

News Blog

Infographic: Pay in Tennessee Film

Music Blog

New Contract Approved for MSO Musicians

News Blog

Memphis Pets of the Week (March 21-27)

From My Seat

Yale Beats Maravich!

Tiger Blue

NIT: Tigers 74, San Diego 60


More by Alex Greene

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation