RATES "PEACE IN PIECES" 91/100
"A firestorm of feeling"
"Conveying a near perfect balance of grease, grit, and elegance"
"Fox soothes, pleads, and ultimately persuades."
"(The Betty Fox Band) have delivered a third album that's a charmer and it should prove to be a major breakthrough."
SOULTRESS BETTY FOX LEADS HER BAND AT FAME FOR DEEP BLUES AND SOUL ON ‘PEACE IN PIECES’ (ALBUM REVIEW)
With their third studio release, Peace in Pieces, the Tampa Bay-based Betty Fox Band is set for a breakthrough. The album has a generous 14 tracks and over an hour of music, all laid down at the iconic FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals. The legendary Spooner Oldham’s Wurlitzer electric piano is prominent throughout along with FAME mainstay Clayton Ivey’s organ and the FAME horn section. The spirits of Aretha and Etta just ooze through Fox’s impassioned vocals. Some have described her vocals as lying somewhere between Beth Hart and Etta with a touch of Marion James. Regardless of these reference points, her sound is raw, honest, and, at times, visceral. Not only that, but save one tune, Betty Fox wrote or co-wrote all the material.
Fox works her way seamlessly through blues, gospel, and deep Southern soul helped by her core band members and co-writers/co-producers Josh Nelms (guitar) and Barry Williams (bass). If you’re like this writer, your likely reaction is “where has this vocalist been hiding?” Yes, she’s absorbed the deep grooves and emotive qualities of those she consciously emulates whether it be Al Green, Mavis, Aretha, Curtis Mayfield or others. She takes the term “blue-eyed soul” to the highest level.
Most of the tunes are in the radio-friendly three to four-minute range, except for the epic Americana “Fireflies,” demonstrating her extensive range both as a vocalist and songwriter. The album kicks off with the uplifting “Green Light” and plies a similar vibe on “Feels So Good” and “Rising Strong.” In between though, she delivers riveting slow-burners. She delves into more emotional fare on “Let Go or be Dragged” and “Shattered Dreams and Broken Toes” but reaches the pinnacle of smoldering, slow blues first in “Runnin’ Back to You” followed by her autobiographical “Sweet Goodnight.” Her sultry approach is best exemplified in “Magnificent Hallucination.” An album filled with such dripping emotion can only end one way, with a gospel hymn which she delivers as the one cover, “Til’ The Storm Passes By.”
Countless singers try to deliver this intoxicating mix of blues/soul/gospel, but most try too hard, resulting in overwrought takes and banal clichés. Credit Betty Fox and her band for hitting the sweet spot right on. Not only that, but rarely does an album of this length not have its share of fillers. This music is consistently emotive, inspiring, and played with equal doses of finesse and strength to frame Betty Fox’s dripping, searing, and soaring vocals. Anything less than a major breakthrough for this outstanding effort would be a grave injustice.
SOULFUL SIMPLICITY SHINES WITH "FIREFLIES"
Today, soulful singer-songwriter Betty Fox premiered the music video for her song “Fireflies” from her new album ‘Peace in Pieces.’ The new album — and video — have been a project well developed over four years, following her previous release Slow Burn in 2015.
Fox explains how “Fireflies” came to be, out of sheer and simplistic intention to create.
“Fireflies was conceived at five in the morning after too much espresso, Al Green, and a YouTube rabbit hole,” she told American Songwriter. “I wanted to sing life into something. I wanted comfort and love and closure, so I poured it into Fireflies.”
Fox also explains her songwriting process to be its own journey, not adhering to any one formula or specific technique.
“Every song is its own journey. Some songs are easily polished and some songs are like archeological digs, unearthing the perfect words and melody to express the intensity of the emotion you want to share,” said Fox. “But the final test is always how it makes me feel. Does the story feel told? Does it feel done? Then it is.”
Fox did mention at least one important writing technique she applies when writing her songs. Fox credits her one songwriting lesson from a very talented spoken word poet.
“That poet taught me the necessity of searching for the right words. Writing with her was like trying to solve a Mensa puzzle with no correct answer. She was the best teacher I’ve ever had,” said Fox.
The video concept for “Fireflies” matched the simple elegance of the songwriting and gave way to the idea of family and the sense of home at the forefront. Fox grew up in a large family, where love and affection was a staple and she wanted to convey that feeling in the “Fireflies” video.
This video was shot by Katie Talbert. She is a filmmaker, artist and friend of Fox’s. Given their friendship, Talbert already realized Fox’s vision and importance to convey the idea of family and paint a picture of comfort in the video.
Fox explains her goal for the video is to elicit a sense of solace in a world where depression, sadness and anxious feelings are widespread. Fox hopes her art will bring a kind of peace to everyone that crosses paths with it.
“We wanted it to convey a sense of home, so we filmed it in my living room and back yard with the people I love the most surrounding us,” she concluded.
Sounds of South
The past year is hardly over and the new one starts again with a sensationally good album. “Peace In Pieces” is the name of the third work by the Betty Fox Band based in Petersburg, Florida, which neither I, nor probably nobody else here, should have had on the screen until now.
The pretty blonde, with one of the best voices I've heard in the soulful blues genre to date, went to the famous FAME studios in Muscle Shoals Alabama, with 13 original compositions and a gospel standard, with exquisite accompaniment by musicians such as Spooner Oldham ( Neil Young , JJ Cale , Jackson Browne), Clayton Ivey (Boz Scaggs, Gregg Allman , Toby Keith ), Chris Peet, Barry Williams and long-term companion John Nelms.
The latter two are also responsible for the sensitive production (wonderful, how the instruments merge here and prepare the protagonist the 'stage' for her fabulous singing).
The pieces mostly move in the relaxed bluesy-soulful mid-tempo range, where Bettie's voice variability can best unfold. Every now and then things get a little bit faster with things like the title track, the shuffling "Feels So Good" and the swinging "Rising Strong".
Sometimes you ca n't avoid comparisons with Beth Hart on tracks like "Magnificent Hallucination" or "Shattered Dreams & Broken Toes" , but personally I like Bettie's voice in the range a little better.
Oldham and Ivey shine through their well-coordinated keyboard work, and the wind fractal is usually more of a gently plushing fill work, only "Sweet Memories" has a saxophone solo played by Brad Guin.
The most striking accents are the protagonist guitarist Josh Nelms, to kneel down his solos in the southern soul opener " Green Light ", on "Peace In Pieces (wonderfully lively) or on the surprise song of the album" Fireflies ", where Fox and Co. suddenly become one Scatter eight-minute, acoustic / electric guitar-controlled Americana-Schwofer in the best Lucinda Williams manner.
In the end, Fox pays tribute to the American music education (family / church) typical for the American music education (family / church) with the gospel standard “Til The Storm Passes By” and gives a final vocal parade performance with her voice to organ and piano sounds.
In the end I have to say that I have rarely been so enthusiastic about a female voice so quickly. Betty Fox and her excellent band deliver a hot candidate for the 'Album of the Year' right from the start.
Whoever buys this CD is undoubtedly a clever fox!
Rock & Blues Muse
"PEACE IN PIECES" ALBUM REVIEW
The long awaited third studio album Peace in Pieces by powerhouse, blues and roots singer-songwriter Betty Fox, is released January 10th, and produced by Fox, John Nelms and Barry Williams. Recorded at FAME Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL, this 14-track album includes 13 originals and one spiritual. It’s a blend of Southern soul, blues, gospel and funk with one tremendous vocalist at the helm.
Featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame pianist/organist Spooner Oldham as well as the highly acclaimed FAME horn section, the Betty Fox Band includes Betty Fox on vocals and guitar, Josh Nelms on electric guitar, Barry Williams on bass, Chris Peet on drums, Clayton Ivey on organ and grand piano, Brad Guin on sax, Ken Watters on trumpet, and Cindy Walker, Marie Lewey and Betty Fox singing backup.
One click on Southern soul/rock and roll opening track, “Green Light,” and Betty Fox’s soulful, bluesy and gospel vocals flood the room. You might find it hard to believe that Fox is 27 years old as she seems to draw from old-soul spirit with dazzling vocal swagger. With a voice like hers, there’s only great things in store.
With the highly acclaimed FAME horn section, “Winter’s Cold” welcomes you into Fox’s lifelong passion for soul music. She comes by that rightly as she was raised by a family of musicians who would all gather around the piano and sing four and five part harmonies on gospel classics. The horn section couldn’t be better on this up-tempo love song.
With an insane vocal range, Betty Fox glides through soul, R&B/gospel tunes, some up-tempo and catchy like the title track, “Peace in Pieces.” A fun, rhythmic stomper, this tune also features a delightful guitar solo by Josh Nelms, adding to the sparkle. A standout.
“Let Go or Be Dragged” slows things down a bit and hurls the willing listener into a neo soul burner with Fox modulating her voice to deliver a fiery seduction. Her voice has hints of some of the great R&B singers with gospel roots such as Chaka Khan and Patti Labelle. There’s a little Etta James sprinkled around the edges but Fox’s voice is uniquely her own. The entire band is outstanding.
The autobiographical “Sweet Goodnight” was written by Fox with help from her stepmother in the face of Fox’s late father who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. This song and the way Fox so soulfully sings it, raised the hair on my arms as well as brought tears to my eyes. If you’ve lost a parent to a tragic disease, grab the Kleenex—that’s how moving this tune is, and how expertly Fox delivers.
Diving into a jazzy, jump blues number with great groove, “Rising Strong” makes good use of the horn section and band—they are tight, smooth, and connected. Nelms ads another elegant guitar solo to an already great tune. Fox stretches into a number of vocal growls—her voice is intense, raw. Perhaps as this young singer matures, she might draw back from her enviable vocal gymnastics in service of the song.
The album closes with “’Til The Storm Passes,” a gospel spiritual with elegant piano and organ. Fox’s vocals prove to be another hair raiser with brilliant vocal power and control. She seems right at home on this standout song that offers hope and strength to face challenges. A beautiful ending to a solid album from Betty Fox and her band. I look forward to what will surely be a fast-moving music career for this incredibly talented artist.
Betty Fox is a force.
Some people are just plain born to sing, and Betty Fox is certainly one of them. Combining blues, rock, funk, soul and gospel, the 27-year-old songstress has just released her third album, Peace In Pieces, and it is sure to be her breakout record. Her heart-wrenching, soul-piercing style has been wowing Florida fans for years, but after recording this gem at iconic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, it is her time to shine for the rest of the world. Backed on piano and organ by industry luminaries Spooner Oldham and Clayton Ivey as well as the FAME horn section, Fox and her band have outdone themselves. Co-produced by Fox, guitarist Josh Nelms and bassist Barry Williams, the 14-track record includes 13 originals and one traditional gospel standard. Fox’s vocal range and depth echo Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, and Beth Hart. But make no mistake – Fox’s style and sound are uniquely her own.
The record opens strong with “Green Light,” an upbeat rocker that displays Fox’s incredible vocals. Slowing down the tempo with the hauntingly beautiful “Winter’s Cold” and “Marie,” Fox impresses with her vocal control. But on “Sweet Memories,” she builds slowly and showcases her range until letting loose at the end and belting it out for all the world to hear. Brad Guin’s (FAME) sax accents are perfect too.
Returning to a rocker on the title track, “Peace In Peaces,” Fox then follows it with the slow burner, “Let Go or Be Dragged,” a real album highlight. I really like song placement on this record. It flows very well between upbeat and slower tracks.
Other standouts include the fun “Feels So Good,” “Shattered Dreams and Broken Toes,” which has an Adele feel to it, and “Sweet Goodnight,” a moving piece written with her stepmother about her father, who died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. But it’s the last two tracks that put this record into a different realm and really show Fox’s maturity as a singer. “Fireflies” gives me chills every time I listen to it and should be getting airplay everywhere. It is stunning. The only way to round out this brilliant record, naturally, was for the girl who grew up singing in church to cover a gospel standard, Mosie Lister’s “‘Til the Storm Passes By.” Don’t be surprised if you’re on your knees by the time this record ends. It’s that great.
I have been privileged to see Betty Fox live multiple times, and every jaw-dropping performance leaves me wanting more and inspires me to believe that a bonafide star has been born. She pours such a depth of emotion into every note of every song. This record is chock full of promise and brimming with heart and soul, just like Fox. Get this record. Watch her soar.