Born and raised in Brooklyn, Bette Smith reconnected with her musical roots in Memphis and Mississippi. It was there she recorded her first disc which brought her to the core of the gospel she sang in church and the soul music she heard on hot summer nights, when Brooklyn was a rough place to be in, full of street gangs and pretty intimidating for a young girl in the stages of growing up.
With her debut album Jetlagger, Bette kept her promise to her brother Junior on his deathbed suffering from kidney failure; not to give up on her career as a singer. “It’s all for him now” she affirms.
Jimbo Mathus, founding member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and musician for artists such as Valerie June, Buddy Guy & Elvis Costello; as well as being a solo artist and producer for Luther Dickinson and The Seratones among others, produced the album and sent “roughs” to Big Legal Mess Records, a subsidiary of ‘Fat Possum’ Record label, who swiftly signed her on. “You exceeded all expectations”, Mathus told her.
The entire album was recorded live in the swamps of the Mississippi with all the legacy of the deep south, but the aggresiveness & passion of Bette’s New York. “I felt like I was Tina Turner and Etta James”, she affirmed, while skillfully navigating between raucous soul-rock, funk and pieces from Blaxsploitation soundtrack. There is a passionate rendition of Lone Justice’s I Found Love, co-written by Steven Van Zandt, and a strong connection to gospel music with her version of the Staple Singers’ City In The Sky. In fact, Ray Charles invited her to collaborate with him shortly before his demise, having seen her perform in Los Angeles.
She has been compared with the blues power voices of both Big Mama Thornton & Bessie Smith, the smooth, classiness of jazz/blues singer Joe Williams, the dynamics of Koko Taylor and the energy of Janis Joplin, all wrapped up tight in the magic of Billie Holiday. Timeless music (soul, rhythm & blues) with Mississippi being the birthplace.
Bette Smith: Vocals
Curtis Brewer: Guitar
Stuart Kemp: Bass
Max Yassky: Drums
Michael Sarian: Trumpet
Aaron Pozón: Sax.