BettySoo and Doug Cox – Green Note (London, September 13th, 2011)
In 2010 BettySoo and Doug Cox met whilst teaching at a guitar camp in Alaska; realising that a common thread ran through their respective musical tastes and that they really enjoyed working together, they combined their talents to record an album of cover songs. The result was the recently released LIE TO ME under their (duo) name Across the Borderline. I think that alludes to the fact that geographically, one is based in Austin, Texas and the other in Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
BettySoo, as I described her, when reviewing her solo release HEAT SIN WATER SKIN (5/5* in Maverick) is an award winning singer songwriter who at the time, 2009, was Austin’s best kept secret. Cox is regarded as one of the world’s leading dobro players and is a highly sought after instructor.
The intimate setting of Green Note was therefore a perfect venue for their second London date on this tour comprising as it did an attentive audience who hung on every word and note. In fact so attentive that Cox described the listeners as ‘quietly amazing’. Having recently performed at a (noisy) State Fair in Minnesota, they found the contrast between the chattering US and reverential UK, somewhat stark. However, it was obvious that they were really enjoying the opportunity to play for such a respectful room.
With no support act tonight, they played two sets; the first at an hour long and the second at 45 minutes in length meant that we got to hear not only songs selected for the duo album but others which didn’t make the cut. In the former category they gave us six of the ten offerings and in the latter they covered Dan Penn’s Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (possibly best known for becoming a soul classic as recorded by Aretha Franklin), Ruthie Foster’s Runaway Soul, Hank Williams’ The Angel of Death, Kimmie Rhodes’ Love and Happiness for You, Ralston Bowles’ What Do You Want From Me Now? and an instrumental version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. That gives a flavour of the eclectic selection of material and their wide and varying musical influences.
But that wasn’t all – there was no way that they were going to be allowed to restrict themselves just to cover songs so we also got to hear some of BettySoo’s self-penned material including the requests Whisper My Name and Never the Pretty Girl (which is Cox’s favourite song of hers) Get Clean, Who Knows and Never Knew No Love. All from her Gurf Morlix produced HEAT SIN WATER SKIN whose European release/distribution earlier this year was almost two years after its US launch.
Two people on top of their game and lots of stories between songs made for a memorable evening. Cox has a wry turn of phrase and a wealth of anecdotes from performing, teaching and even road managing (the first Texas Tornados tour). He tells an affectionate tale about the late Doug Sahm who came for a short visit and ended up staying for two years!
BettySoo’s voice is gorgeous – soulful, tender and Cox’s playing so sympathetic. There is nothing flashy about this pairing; they do what they do so very well drawing you in, with gentleness, to their musical palette. Anyone who is confident enough to record songs by Texan royalty Butch Hancock (Boxcars) and Guy Clark (Dublin Blues) and be willing to stand comparison with the originals surely deserves to be heard – reader I can tell you that BettySoo and Doug Cox absolutely nail it! Jela Webb