Bet Smith “Downer”

Pine Lake Records, 2021

Deeply felt thought and experience permeate Smith’s lyrics bringing both the personal and the universal to the surface

Artwork for Bet Smith Album, "Downer"How many industrial welders become purveyors of thoughtful and poignant Americana songs? Whilst you scratch your head to come up with your top ten Americana artists who might fall into this category, don’t forget to add Bet Smith to the list. Smith spent time utilising her metalworking skills in Toronto with the TV and film industry; said experience forming, in part, the inspiration for the track, ‘What Matters Most’ featured on this album. The collection of songs gathered here feature Canadian based Smith on acoustic guitar, vocals, occasional bass and keys ably supported by partner Rob Currie on guitar & bass with his brother on drums. Production is credited to Smith and her partner. Smith’s songwriting holds reflections on the parlous state of our world, with apocalyptic, dystopian visions creating a deep sense of unease.

The opening track, ‘Forgive You’ takes weighty themes such as greed, injustice and climate change framed within an atmosphere of subdued anger. Indeed, much of the album though imbued with a sense of quiescence has beneath the surface undercurrents of turbulence that rise to the surface upon repeated listening. During a recent visit to the US, Smith witnessed the racism and oppression that was being justified by malignant interpretations of the Bible which formed the inspiration for ‘Some Greater Power’. The track is accompanied by some beautifully understated lead guitar and strong melodic vocals. A poignant exploration of unrequited love, ‘All of the Above’ lays its heart on its sleeve in a seemingly calm manner until the emotion that lies below the surface begins to emerge. Smith’s vocal talents give each track its unique character with ‘I Would Rather Run’ being no exception. Overtones of Rosanne Cash are prevalent on this atmospheric track which portrays a story of survival in a dystopian future that has been created by the impact of climate change. The reflective ‘North Ontario’ showcases Smith’s beautiful vocals with an acoustic backdrop whilst, ‘Signs of Hostility’ sings of self-sufficiency and strength of community gained through a deep relationship with the environment. After living off-grid for three years, Smith moved to the materialism of Toronto; she explores some of her resultant meditations on this experience in ‘What Matters Most’. The title track, ‘Downer’ completes the album with a story of a couple in a bleak, not too distant future.

Deeply felt thought and experience permeate Smith’s lyrics bringing both the personal and the universal to the surface. Her songs remind us that we are all entwined to the earth whether or not we choose to recognise this fact; they are cautionary tales that deserve our attention.

7/10
7/10

About Richard Phillips 52 Articles
From the leaden skies of Manchester to the sunny uplands of Cheshire, my quest is for authentic Americana. Love live music, my acoustic guitar and miss my baby (grand piano).

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