Bette Smith
Local Artist Spotlight: Bette Smith

Bette Smith's new music sounds like a party

Are you a Brooklynite looking for a local rhythm and blues singing torch to light your fire? Look no further than Bed-Stuy’s own New York Blues Hall of Fame member Bette Smith. Now is a great time to get acquainted with her music, as her third studio album, Goodthing, will be released in July 2024. She’s been a fixture on the New York music scene for well over a decade and has played worldwide. She’s holding a release party for her new album on Tuesday, July 9th, at the Mercury Lounge.

Her church-trained alto growls and slinks, full of texture and emotion, over a lively backing blues band. It’s a throwback sound – one can easily imagine her sharing a bill with Otis Redding or Tina Turner – one that’s more Memphis than Motown, looser and grittier than the airtight arrangements of similar modern R&B artists like erstwhile Brooklyn soul stalwarts the Dap-Kings. Listen to the four singles she’s released this year ahead of Goodthing for a sense of her range.

  • Eternal Blessings” features her voice delicately laid over an Isaac Hayes-esque guitar arrangement and Al Kooper-ish organ in a song about second-hand heartbreak. She reigns in the bravado and releases her emotive core.
  • Goodthing” is a rave-up with a guitar riff reminiscent of the Eagles’ “Life In the Fast Lane” and a brassy vocal that echoes Lenny Kravitz’s “Always On the Run.” The suggestive lyrics are delivered with a wink and a smile from a confident woman who feels in total control.
  • Beautiful Mess” sounds like an Amy Winehouse song, from its slinky piano and guitar to its frank lyrics. Her vocals fill the room without going too big. It’s retro-soul in its structure with its lightly crooned harmonies in the chorus and triplet shuffle feel, but it’s modern in depicting a tumultuous relationship.
  • M.O.N.E.Y.” hits the listener with a breakbeat-ready drum groove and a roomful of backup singers, evoking both a gospel choir and a George Clinton shuffle jam session re-working D’Angelo’s “Devil’s Pie.” Bette goes low, Bette goes high, Bette touches the sky.  It sounds like it was recorded live in the studio with a full band, and as such, it sounds like a party.

All these versions of Bette Smith have been present on her previous two studio albums, 2020’s The Good, The Bad, and The Bette, and 2017’s Jetlagger. This is who she is as an artist – a voice with many dimensions and a willingness to explore where these might lead. A voice that commands attention.

Photo: Bette Smith Instagram

Adam is just a dude based in Brooklyn who enjoys thinking about music in all forms. He enjoys cooking, board games, baseball, and arranging songs for ukulele that shouldn't be played on ukulele in an extremely amateurish way. Adam is shown here at age 13 on his way to a bar mitzvah.

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