By Stephanie Garr
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “I Found Love” by Bette Smith, from the album Jetlagger, available now on Big Legal Mess.
Bette Smith – I Found Love (MP3)
Bette Smith is no smoothed-out soul singer. No, this Brooklyn native goes straight for the gut with a howl as raw and ruthless as the rough streets she grew up on. As a child, she was surrounded by gospel music, from her grandmother's house to her Bed-Stuy neighborhood's block parties. It's a sound that powers the Southern-fried rock and soul that dominates Smith's debut album, Jetlagger, released last year on the Fat Possum imprint Big Legal Mess.
While the urban singer only took her first step into the sticky, storied Deep South when walking into Mississippi's Dial Back Sound for the album's recording sessions, it's clear she felt right at home. Alongside producer Jimbo Mathus (founding member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers), Smith tears through an electrifying set of sizzling vintage sounds and covers of artists like The Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes.
But it's the way she tackles L.A. '80s band Lone Justice's "I Found Love" that best highlights her intriguing blend of grit and gospel with Mathus' bluesy rock influence. As Smith leads the rollicking call-and-response chorus over a scrappy garage-rock beat, blasts of brass blaze underneath. Throughout, her vocals—recorded live—slip between a bass-y boom and a raspy snarl that holds both the sass of Tina Turner and the swagger of Mick Jagger.