CLEAR BLUE BETTY – Write Your Name in the Sky
If Clear Blue Betty’s debut album, Never Been a Rebel, was a confident first step, Write Your Name in the Sky is a giant step forward. The formula hasn’t changed that much; singer, guitarist, keyboardist, mandolinist and front woman Beth Kille is still the focal point of the band and the songs emanate from her point of view. The music remains basically uncomplicated rock and pop with the precise and punchy, triple-threat rhythm section of Tony Kille, Jim Smith and Doug Sies shining throughout. It’s the flourishes that the band adds in terms of guest artists that lift this album up. It’s also the simpler touches; the way the backup vocals get subtly added to the mix, adding just the perfect feathery touch; the percussion choices that Smith and Tony Kille make. It’s also the way the lyrics and music come together to add up to that magical something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Nowhere is there a stronger statement for the wolf in Beth Kille’s sheep’s clothing than “Bulletproof,” a crunching rocker featuring John Masino on lead guitar. Here is where the power of the rhythm section meets its match in the balls-out soloing of Masino and the grit that Kille brings to her vocals. “AO (FTM)” is another groove-rocker with a tough stance and a chorus of vocal “A-O’s!” while Kille suggests we all follow our dreams and “fuck the man.” This is a versatile band that can play several variations of the rock format, and more often in an acoustic guitar-centric way, but they may want to explore this edgy stuff a bit more.
Another bold step is the down-tempo and very minor key “Small Talk,” where the keyboards become the main instrument. The brushed snare and the sultry, dry vocal treatment build the tension of an illicit love affair very effectively.
“Come Over” is a near-perfect execution of a power ballad that brings in Bascom Hill’s Charlie Victor. The vocal phrasing here is fluid and exact, the two voices blending nicely. It’s one of those songs that could play on Q106 just about as easily as it would on Triple M. The bouncy “Days Like These” boasts a nifty bridge. Here, guitarist Rob Koth’s soft touch on electric guitar solos begins to make sense and becomes a defining part of the band’s sound. “December 31st” tosses in a touch of the worldly with Sean Michael Dargan soloing on bagpipes and J. Scott McMurray adding pennywhistle to the Celtic beat. The backup vocals are cool as well. “The Calling” closes the disc on a high note with the Fountain of Life Worship Center Choir participating in “Can’t Always Get What You Want” style.
Write Your Name in the Sky is a solid disc and puts Clear Blue Betty in the running as one of Madison’s hottest groups. The undeniable passion of Beth Kille confirms that this band has found their sea legs, hoisted their sails and is just getting the party started.