Betty Harris: The best thing ever?

Taking a break from educating us all on the African Diaspora, Matt White claims to have found the most magical set of sounds ever.

I decided, after a significant amount of self searching and evaluation, to take a break from my “African Diaspora” series for one entire week. I don’t do so lightly as my boss is known to have a heavy hand and doesn’t take unplanned vignettes and rabbit trails lightly. However, since I am away from the office and won’t have to deal with whatever punishment he might hand down for another couple weeks, my conscience and loving heart could not help but share a very special event with you…

I think that I have found the most magical set of sounds that my ears have ever participated with.

The most superlative-deserving two minutes and forty five seconds that have ever been imported into my iTunes. The most entirely complete song that I have ever heard ooze from my ear buds, and the most satisfying, enthralling, and mind-bending piece of recorded history that has ever been put on tape. Although you, of course, are scoffing at my hype machine, I am not shaken by your scorn. I am so completely sold on my new found love that my affection will not be thrown off course by the nay-sayers that line the information super highway.

Betty Harris somehow found her way to the bottom of the crate. No doubt, the bottom of the crate can be a respectable place to be and is often inhabited by valuable and rare artists that could stake a claim to the “artist deserving higher recognition” medal. BUT never have I heard a rare dig lay claim to legitimately being the best thing that their respective genre has ever produced. Backed by the Meters and produced by Allen Toussaint, “Break in the Road” is the greatest din of noise that exists in my collection. In all seriousness, I am here to tell you in the most flowery language that I can muster that “Break in the Road” by Betty Harris is the single best soul/funk/r&b track that I have ever heard in my entire short life. Here are some reasons why…

1. The tightest most guerilla beats you have ever heard.

Even Pinson Chanselle, one of Richmond’s premier beatmeisters, had to be held upright upon first listening.

2. The flyest backup singers.

Restrained yet terrifying in their efficiency, these assassins slay your mind, heart, and body with blunt knives…”USED CAR!!”

3. Exceedingly brutal, undomesticated horns.

This is an Allen Toussaint masterpiece. Percolating from every which way, massaging you kindly and then punching you in the gut. Yelling and screaming and whispering and lying and telling the truth all at once. A staple of any New Orleans workout, this bit of horn arranging genius is another testament to the brilliance and artistry of Mr. Toussaint.

4. Bass and guitar parts that will evaporate your will to live.

Holy shit! Girls and boys, hide your faces behind the cleft in the rock because you cannot face the glory of these bass and guitar lines. Sometimes played in unison and sometimes taking divergent paths all their own, they wrinkle and creep their way across the sonic landscape in the most sublime way.

5. The weirdest out-of-place feedback/noises ever.

I don’t know what the thinking was behind this, but it is pure genius. There is creaking and crying and feedback and moans of all kind of electronic progeny. Truly beautiful and weird all at once, this strange foray into the world of psychedelic electronics adds a dimension that is foreign to most New Orleans material – but certainly welcomed with wide open arms.

Sit down, have a cold washcloth and a glass of water nearby, JIC. Make sure your neighbors drop by in a few minutes, whisper a quick prayer thanking the Lord for Allen Toussaint and asking Him to keep an eye out for New Orleans and prepare to celebrate your new found treasure with a Big Stubby.



Buy the album here.

Read more here.

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Matthew E. White

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