Betty Soo’s Heat Sin Water Skin
By Rod Ames
This review has sort of a special story that goes along with it. I have to tell it first. It’s important and absolutely relates to the review itself. It has to do with fate as well.
You see, this record literally fell into my lap. A “DJ” friend gave it to me to listen to. When I got home, I sat it on the shelf and had not looked at it in weeks. I sat down to write my Best of 2009 list.
I write about music so it is only fitting I listen to some while I work. I reached up to grab a CD off the shelf and this one actually fell off the shelf and into my lap. No shit!
I thought to my self, “what the hell!”, and put it in the player.
I went to work compiling my list and before I knew it, almost instantly, I was captivated by the voice and accompanying music emitting from my speakers.
“Who was this woman?” I wondered.
I reached for the jewel case and perused the simple artwork done in cool earthy tones, and the smooth flowing cursive handwriting on the cover. It read – Betty Soo, Heat Sin Water Skin.
I was done for. She had lured me into her clutches with her silky smooth and seductive voice on the very first track, “Never Knew No Love”. It possesses a very bluesy intro with a slightly distorted guitar signaling the way for her vocals. “When the sun’s still beating down in September/can’t touch your toes to the pavement in the afternoon/ Swinging out front, wondering whether Sins of the summer gonna come/Catch up with you soon”. There is a dash of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. I wasn’t positive the first time I heard the song, so I had to replay it, and sure enough, there was a throaty groan that resided just beneath everything to add to the atmosphere of the tune. I suppose you could call it the finishing touch that helps to give the song the sweaty, sultry nature it possesses. In other words, folks, this song ain’t just about the weather. The lyrics tell us that. However, I believe you could remove the lyrics and you could still get the same suggestion just from the arrangement of the melody. The song was a great beginning to what was going to eventually be my seventh best record of 2009.
On track two we get a ballad that speaks of a woman being used by another – “Am I just another lover to you?/Another piece of skin you could get close to/Someplace warm where you once fit in/Invisible, expendable as oxygen/Am I just another lover to you?” Betty Soo almost whispers this little ballad and the violin played by Gene Elders adds to the hopelessness expounded by the protagonist in the tune. Gurf Morlix plays the softly picked electric guitar. It’s a very soothing sounding song but don’t be misled, the lyrics are about being hurt, and being hurt deeply, about being used, about just being a piece of flesh. Sin.
The fourth track on the record, “Who Knows”, begins with the expertly played electric guitar leading us into again, the silky smooth voice of BettySoo. It is another very bluesy song asking; “Who knows…if there will be a place to come home to/Who knows…if the nails and plywood will hold/Who knows…if it’s any safer where we’re going to/But it’s west and north for now”. Obviously, it’s a song about impending doom, in this case, a hurricane approaching. Or is it? Could it also be how people come in and out of our lives not caring how disruptive they have been? Sometimes that happens. We blow through people’s lives like a strong wind, destroying everything in site, then moving on as if nothing ever happened. Betty Soo’s voice rings true, and on this particular tune, she really takes off and shows her range which only adds to the drama this tune contains.
We Texans love to sing about the weather. It’s great subject matter here. When one sings about the weather, it more than likely can be taken literally or metaphorically, but more often, both. In Texas, we have a lot to work with, both literally and metaphorically. To the North we have “Tornado Alley”. All along the Gulf Coast, we have hurricanes. In between, we have high winds and some ferocious thunderstorms that appear with such darkness one could assume Armageddon is upon us.
Stevie Ray sang about it in “Texas Flood” and “Couldn’t Stand the Weather”. Aaron Thibeaux Walker, AKA T-Bone Walker, sang about it in “Stormy Monday”. So why not BettySoo with “Who Knows”? The guitar is wonderful through out the record but really shines through on this tune. Why would you expect anything less when you have Gurf Morlix playing lead guitar?
Track Six is groovy little tune called “Get Clean” – “Pull the curtains down/Throw the doors open/Strip the bed, turn every light on/Step in the river, let it cover/Let go when you go under”. Followed by the chorus – “It’s time to get clean/It’s time to get clean/Take what’s hidden and make it seen/It’s time to get clean.” Great lyrics sung by a great vocalist accompanied by great musicians. Again, we have Gurf Morlix on lead guitar and bass, Betty Soo plays acoustic guitar and Dave Terry is on drums. In all actuality it is a simple tune laid out in such a way that it all comes together to become one of the best songs on the album. There is also the un-credited, what sounds to me like the ever reliable Hammond organ, which tremendously helps to establish the dramatic nature of the tune. Again, it’s a song that lies a bit on the blues side but there is nothing wrong with that, considering the subject matter. It’s about getting clean of course, and can be interpreted many different ways. However, considering the title of the record, it should be taken to mean exactly what it says in this particular case.
Heat Sin Water Skin – The title of the record itself could be one of the shortest poems ever. The songs on this record all pertain to the title. Sometimes literal sometimes metaphorical, and as mentioned earlier, often times, both. You can tell after listening to this record that there was a lot of heart and soul poured into the production values. It shows on very nearly, every track and why wouldn’t it? Gurf Morlix wasn’t just one of the musicians on the record, he also produced it, and as the credits on the record state, he was even dragging cable. Talk about hands on! He takes it to a completely new level. Meaning he may have believed in this record almost as much as the artist.
This is truly a great record, which absolutely deserved, at the very least, the seventh spot on my Best of 2009 list. If I had heard it earlier and had more time to listen to it, the record probably would have made it even higher than number seven. I find it interesting, and a little sad, it hasn’t garnered more National attention. That being said, it is certainly a recording you will want to add to your library if you have not already done so. I expect we will all be hearing a lot more from this young Austin, Texas singer/songwriter.