Artist: Betty Benedeadly
Album: From the Mesa
Label: Desert Records
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Country: United States
Betty Benedeadly originally hailed from Austin, Texas but recently relocated to Taos, New Mexico after witnessing police brutality at a BLM protest in Austin. Following this, Betty made her way to the desert in a van with no defined location in mind, simply wanting to escape the world that existed around her in Austin. Betty states:
“Solitude in the desert was my medicine. All those coyote howl-filled nights under the milky way quieted my anxiety-filled mind. Instead of obsessing over the horrors of COVID death tolls or the current fascist regime, I slowly moved into that space beyond words. I was learning how to listen to the non-human elements all around me, to commune with the land, to receive her deeper wisdom. Eventually, the trauma resulting from the events of this past year began to melt away, and I knew I was back on my path when new songs began to flow through me again.”
These elements and this experience inspired From the Mesa, giving birth to the more meditative elements on the album and combining with numerous elements from Betty’s psychedelic rock collective Sheverb. Betty carried across the collective’s psychedelic, surf rock and desert rock influences, bringing with her not only elements from their past works but also member Braden Guess who is credited on the album as being a guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and co-arranger. Other credits on the album go to Brett Tomadin of Taos Sound and Media for recording, mixing and bass, Cris Burns at Ameripolitan Studios for mixing and mastering and Abby Apple who assisted Betty with the creation of the album’s artwork.
The EP is a truly unique listen, drawing inspiration from Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti westerns, but adding the aforementioned elements to create a unique style and sound. Sheverb’s goal has always been to challenge people’s understanding of the romanticized Wild West and Betty’s solo release continues this theme. You will find all of those elements that you love and enjoy about classic western soundtracks, including the guitar twang and foot stamping rhythms. However, you will find so much more than that here, Betty takes the western sound and drives it in all new directions, creating something truly unique. I believe that Ennio’s original film scores are honoured here, but they are also in some ways elevated, now transcending their initial limitations.
As someone who has spent quite a bit of time in the United States’ Southwestern deserts I can definitely feel their inspiration in this music. Not only does the music remind me of these places, but it captures their spirit and conjures images in my head of the harsh, yet beautiful scenery with rock formations existing in a wild array of colours. I see images of cereus cacti, prickly pears, palm yucca, vast swathes of sagebrush and the occasional juniper tree. I can also picture the sounds of coyotes in the distance while you sleep in your tent at night. There really is something about this part of the world that is special, it has an almost spiritual quality to it in some way and the more isolated you become, the stronger that feeling gets.
As far as the instrumentation on the album goes, everything is expertly performed. The songs are well written and arranged and as stated maintain the original essence of their inspiration while effortlessly weaving in a number of varied styles and sounds. The meditative, psychedelic elements on the release reflect what Betty described experiencing in the desert. This fuses with images created of outlaws and cowboys previously existing in the same spaces through the rich and twangy guitar tone, stomping of spur equipped boots, rustling of the shakers and what sounds like tambourines. The surf groove gives things some room to breathe and adds a sort of lightness to the mix, while the desert rock influences brings in some of the albums energy and bounce.
Overall, this is a fantastic album and one that I truly enjoyed. New twists on western soundtrack style music are becoming increasingly popular, with this being the third album of this nature I’ve covered this year, something I am extremely pleased about. Having said that each of these albums have been vastly different to each other, with From the Mesa standing out as a completely unique piece of music. My only complaint whatsoever is that I wish there were more music here, the three songs got me hooked and left me wanting more (a good problem to have I suppose). So, take some time out of your day, give this a spin and get your orders in today. Also make sure to check out Sheverb.
Listen to and order the album below: