Get Ready To Rock reviewed “Fire On The Floor”:
Provogue [Release date 14.10.16]
Beth Hart’s ‘Fire On the Floor’ is a career defining album full of rich songcraft, heartfelt phrasing and exuberant playing shot through with total conviction and emotion.
There are no half measures with a Beth Hart album. ‘Fire On The Floor’ is quasi-confessional, reflective and rocking by turns. The 12 tracks mirror her restless search for emotion, meaning and the truth, albeit with an occasional sense of mischief and humour.
And if she doesn’t always quite manage to unravel a bigger picture, she does the next best thing, which is to pour her heart and soul into the kernel of a set of songs that shift from self revelation to imagined colourful narratives.
Her fans might justifiably argue that in Beth’s hands even the most mundane of songs can potentially be transformed into something essential. But that would be to underestimate her own abilities as both a songwriter and an interpreter of song who stands or falls by the emotional weight of her lyrics.
‘Fire On The Floor’ explores a wide framework of musical genres as she mixes the introspective with the ebullient, tempered by the kind of fleeting reflection that only experience gives you.
Together with a roster of A-list players, including the mellifluous tones of guitarists Michael Landau and Waddy Wachtel, she sounds remarkably relaxed. From the finger clicking, tongue twisting, after-hours opener ‘Jazz Man’, to the organic, live-in-the-studio and playful feel of the sleazy blues ‘Coca Cola’ – on which she whoops and hollers through the guitar solo – she sounds happy.
The tightly structured arrangements and emotive highs are amplified by a subtle production that pays close attention to detail. Listen for example, to the atmospheric colourful tones of the title track, which frames her quavering vibrato and expansive phrasing on an album that perfectly showcases one of the leading vocalists of our age.
Then there’s the moving ‘Woman You’ve Been Dreaming Of’, a perfect meeting of beautifully crafted lyrics with a drifting piano line, subtle brush strokes and distant guitar tones on a heartfelt ballad with a universal meaning: ‘You can’t hold a man, that’s holding out for more’.
‘Fire on The Floor’ is an album that successfully searches for an equilibrium that embraces all her emotional baggage and musical styles.
She’s often lazily tagged as Americana artist – if only because of her genre bending ability to embrace disparate musical styles. But that fails to convey her ability as an interpretive singer, let alone a candid confessional singer- songwriter who makes the lyrics jump off the page.
On ‘Love Is A Lie’ she attacks the hook with a naked aggression and emotion to nail the line as only she can. ‘Jazz Man’ brings contrast with a groove that is the perfect meeting of the songsmith and vocalist rolled into one.
Her phrasing draws us into a rock song with a radio friendly uplifting chorus, while the title track is a perfect example of her ability to transform the old ‘moth to a flame ‘ scenario into a gut wrenching song that emotionally drags the listener over the coals with an arresting opening line: “Love is a fever and is burning me alive, can’t be tamed or satisfied”. She also belts out the crucial line: “Love is a lesson you were born to never learn”, on a song that she again inhabits with total conviction.
For an artist who is as happy rocking out as she is searching for the deepest emotion, the album has an exhilarating flow that leads us imperceptibly to a gentle finish. The closing trio of introspective songs sound like a natural end to a confessional journey.
And yet when you get to the end of the album, you still recall the high points such as the mambo feel of ‘Love Gangster’ and the piano-led descending intro to ’Love Is A Lie’, on which she effortless soars on the hook.
Given her fragmented career path in which she has been an as a enfant terrible, a confessional torch singer, a deep singer-songwriter, an interpreter of American song book duets and an uninhibited rocker, ‘Fire On The Floor’ sounds like a defining piece in the jigsaw.
For anyone still unfamiliar with Beth Hart, this is the prefect introduction, as it captures all her abilities perfectly. It’s an album that ebbs and flows on the back of her significant piano lines and her expressive phrasing on a set of arrangements on which her guest studio players perfectly nuance the material.
Nothing sounds forced and in her best moments such as on ‘Love Gangster’, ‘Woman You’ve Been Dreaming Of’ and the emotive ‘Picture In A Frame’, she showcases her ability to get inside a song and make the kind of emotional and intimate connection with her listener that marks her out as special.
‘Fire On The Floor’ is a contemporary album shot through with old school values and it’s delivered by one of the great singer-songwriters of our time. Unreservedly recommended. *****
Review by Pete Feenstra