Austin -Based “Breakups” Songwriter Beth Lee Takes On Brighter Cynicism Via “Waiting on You” (ALBUM REVIEW)

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This is Beth Lee stepping out on her own four years after the release of her critically lauded album, Keep Your Mouth Shut, with her roots rock ‘n’ roll band Beth Lee & The Breakups. She left her comfort zone behind, this being her fourth album recorded in California’s East Bay area. With a similar Americana filter that represents her past releases as Beth Lee & The Breakups, Waiting on You Tonight carries more of Lee’s diverse influences, from her nineties love of the ethereal vocals of Hope Sandoval, to the pop-friendly melodies of sixties girl groups, the southern soul of Stax Records, and contemporary Americana of artist Nicole Atkins. Lee’s are infectious tunes, where she sounds animated in a delightful voice that’s confident and resonant with little girlish hints throughout.

Produced by Chuck Prophet drummer Vicente Rodriguez, Lee delivers these 11 songs intimately and vulnerably. Rodriguez, Chuck Prophet guitarist James DePrato, and multi-instrumentalist Julie Wolf (Ani DiFranco) create a sturdy low end peppered with influences from sixties soul, pop, new wave, punk, country, and rock ‘n’ roll. Lyrically, Lee attributes the inspiration for many of the songs to her struggles in a long-term relationship – a relationship that inspired her band name, the “Breakups”, as well as the title track, “Waiting on You Tonight,” which was written in 2006 at the beginning of her relationship. Thus, the album theme bears an optimism previously not displayed in prior releases.

Lee credits the musical direction of the record both to Rodriguez and her musician father.  Having formed her first band in 2008 with her dad as bass player, it’s to him that she attributes her love for Stax, sixties R&B, and fifties rock ‘n’ roll.  These influences can be heard in “It Was Enough”, a track reminiscent of The Ronettes, and in “Understand Me”, a song that could have been on any ‘60s soul record. Rodriguez puts his California stamp on “Playing Along” with its Beach Boys-sounding doubled vocal track, and on “Four-Letter Name” with its laid-back Doug Sahm/Bobby Charles groove. The track most heavily influenced by Rodriguez, however, is “Waiting on You Tonight”. Originally intended as a slow waltz, Lee and Rodriguez played around on an acoustic the night before they went in the studio and evolved it into an edgy rock tune.

At this point in her career Lee has attained a maturity that enables her to evolve her blend of blues, country, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll more fully. Mostly though, she has come of age as a songwriter to which this project attests.

 

 

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