Following the release of three groovy singles (Liar’s Debt, Ghost and My Baby Don’t Know), New Plymouth’s Betsy and The Reckless bring forth their debut album, ‘Salty’.
Blending together soul, blues and reggae, the record achieves both a laid-back island vibe, no doubt inspired by the Taranaki coast , and a mysterious, retro ambience. The band is one part Betsy Knox and three parts The Reckless: Maki Phillips, Justin Rangi and Riley Smith. Betsy leads with soulful vocals and keys, while the Reckless three add measured doses of smartly rocking funk. Jumpy reggae beats carry the songs, beefed up by runaway guitar solos and perfectly placed keyboard accents, while bright brass sections appear at just the right times to build intensity, resulting in a bold sound and a feel-good mood.
Appropriately titled ‘Salty’, the album talks about a string of bad relationships; frustrating online dating, cheating boyfriends, the phenomenon of ghosting, and fascination with partners that are no good. The lyrical content, infused with a swear word or two, and Betsy’s emotive delivery, result in a gripping atmosphere of intimacy.
Her vocals carry a timeless, vintage tone throughout, moving between defiance and vulnerability. At times Betsy’s voice is calm and clean, and at times it’s rich, velvety and seductive, accented with rhythmic diction and jazzy inflections reminiscent of a 1930s speakeasy songstress.
The tracks are sequenced to alternate between vibrancy, tenderness and buoyancy, providing the album with dynamic shifts in intensity that help keep it captivating from start to finish. Mellow songs like Blank Phone and Ghost add an introspective emotional depth, while the more dynamic of the seven tracks, such as the dynamic openers My Baby Don’t Know and Crazy Rager, invigorate the senses with punchy keys, rhythmically driven vocals and resonant brass crescendos. What is perhaps most impressive is that every song has its own unique pull while maintaining the band’s warm and immersive sound, achieved by spatial panning that sees different instruments offset to either the right or the left of the stereo field, while Betsy’s sultry vocals remain front and centre. The recording, mixing and mastering were all handled locally at Rhythm Ace Studios.
Never once does this album get monotonous, and its cohesion leaves no doubt all the tracks belong in the same collection. If there is one thing that’s a bit disappointing, it’s that running not much over 22 minutes, the album simply isn’t long enough.