Beth Hart is a highly underrated artist who is best known for her minor 2000 hit L.A Song. Since then, she’s developed a following in parts of Europe but has never been able to make herself as known back home in the U.S. My California is her fifth record, released in Europe in 2010 and this past July in North America.
The record is made of songs that speak of personal experiences faced by Beth, who has alluded to them on past records with references to demons and scars. The opening title track and album closer Weight Of The World express a desire to return home, as she sings in the latter: “I just wanna come home/where I started from home/before the weight of the world/turns my heart to stone.” In between are feelings of worthlessness, such as in Bad Love Is Good Enough, “everybody wants somebody/somebody good to love/I just want anybody/bad love is good enough.” Sister Heroine is about her sister who has died from a lifetime of drug abuse.
Each song contains some heartache caused by broken relationships or situations. There are instances of escape, even if just temporary, “the drugs make me sane but they don’t make me better,” from Like You (And Everyone Else). Despite these, the lyrics don’t hold back on emotion, even if the presentation does. Beth has a hard-edged raspy voice, so much so that she once played Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical Love, Janis. The strength of her vocals on this record are held back in favour of bringing out the strength of the lyrics but as a result, the songs never really venture to the depth of how well she can sing. The songs scream pain but Beth doesn’t.
My California only touches on Beth’s abilities as an artist, barely scratching the surface, but the record has its strengths in the lyrics which show a troubled side trying to get better. It’s her lightest-sounding record, sometimes feeling restrained and not doing the songs justice but the double-edged sword is that there is an element of control in there, allowing Beth to take hold of her emotions and sing her songs in a more matter-of-fact way, rather by letting the words flow themselves. The record is a suitable starting point for those unfamiliar with Beth but she has stronger.
1. My California
2. Life Is Callin’
3. Happiness…Any Day Now
4. Love Is The Hardest
5. Bad Love Is Good Enough
7. Sister Heroine [featuring Slash]
8. Take It Easy On Me
9. Like You (And Everyone Else)
10. Everybody Is Sober
11. Weight Of The World