Betty And The BoyBetty And The Boy
Album: The Wreckage
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12

Every so often a record comes along that has me scratching my head. I've listened to 'The Wreckage' several times now and I like it. I REALLY like it. I can't explain why though and that makes it a challenge for a lowly reviewer such as me. Put simply, Betty & The Boy defy the reviewers' wont of pigeon-holing by being utterly un-definable. This should be seen as a positive though as the qualities of the album need to be taken in that little bit more for one to fully appreciate them.

Starting as a duo in Oregon, the band has expanded to a five piece with clearly contrasting but bizarrely complimentary individual styles. All the usual instrumental suspects of a modern folk and roots act are there (banjo, mandolin, guitar etc.) but the musicians holding them clearly come at their craft from differing angles.

The titular opening track drops straight in with a Joanna Newsom esque vocal that is quickly joined by guitar and then in turn banjo and fiddle. It's a slowly building, intense opener but most interestingly it instantly grabs hold of your brain and doesn't let go to the point that you're still humming the tune hours later.

It's as this point that Betty & The Boy throw the first curve ball of the album with the aptly titled 'The Waltz' which prances along delightfully for a lighting quick 3 minutes. 'Building It Up' combines a basic mandolin strum with dual vocals and some neo-classical backing and works absolutely perfectly. It's at this point that you begin to realise that this is an album like no other and it's going to a beautiful nightmare to convey to anyone not hearing it first-hand.

Of the rest of the records 13 tracks 'Poppies' is insistent and intense riding on singer Betty Jaeger's crystal clear and heart rending vocals while 'Hare In A Hollow' sounds like it was written and recorded in an empty boxcar on a cross country train ride. See what I mean - how the heck do you categorise that?? It's only really on 13th and final track that any sign of obvious influence comes in to play and sadly 'September Eighth' sounds a little bit too like Decemberists for its own good. It's a mere trifle in the grand scheme of things though and doesn't detract from what's come before.

Stylistically muddle 'The Wreckage' may be but Betty & The Boy are supremely confident in their own ability to switch from sorrow to joy and from jig to sway. It's a melting pot of styles and influences that for another collective might end up a mess but Betty & The Boy have got the perfect recipe and have cooked up a fantastic record. Leave your pre-conceptions and your spotters guide at the door - this is the new breed!

Rob Fearnley

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