BEADY BELLE: ‘Dedication’ (Jazzland)


                              Originally from Oslo, Norway, Beady Belle started out as a duo comprising singer/songwriter, Beate S. Lech and bassist/producer Marius Reksjø, and made their debut back in 2001 with the album ‘Home’ for Bugge Wesseltoft’s Jazzland label. Melding soul with jazz, electronica, and dance music flavours, the duo created an alluring sound and over the course of six more albums for Jazzland developed their own distinctive and immediately recognisable style. In 2016, Reksjø stepped into the background, allowing Lech – who adopted Beady Belle as her stage name – to go it alone, releasing the aptly-titled album, ‘On My Own.’ Now she returns with ‘Dedication,’ without doubt Beady Belle’s most organic, soulful and satisfying long player yet.

Though intended as a homage to Lech’s musical heroes and heroines – which range from old school icons like Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway to the present day’s  Alicia Keys and Raphael Saadiq – it reveals what a singular talent the 44-year-old Norwegian musician possesses, both as a singer and a songwriter. In the 17 years since Beady Bell’s debut, Beate has grown, blossomed, and gone from strength to strength in her evolution as an artist. She has a knack of crafting sinuous melodies that aren’t necessarily immediate but which, on  repeated listens, insinuate themselves firmly in your grey matter. Her songs seduce by stealth, so that after a few spins, this album has got its hooks in you and won’t let go. ‘Out Of Orbit’ is arguably the killer cut, where an addictive electric sitar line (which bring back memories of Philly soul group, Blue Magic, perhaps) rides on a mid-tempo groove, while the soulful interplay between Lech and her background vocalists is sublime. The confessional ballad, ‘I Run You Ragged,’ is similarly gorgeous while ‘Traces’ shows the singer’s funkier side. There’s even  hint of disco on the anthemic ‘Last Drop Of Blood.’ ‘Mooring Line,’ with its combination of warmly harmonised chorus and a crisp backbeat, is another winner. More reflective is the slow, introspective ‘Waste Of Grace’ while the mid-tempo ‘My Religion’ is a thoughtful examination of personal faith.

Unlike most contemporary R&B songs, Beady Belle’s tunes aren’t obsessed with sex and characterized by banal, disposable lyrics. Beate Lech writes songs about love and life that are intelligent without being too cerebral and eloquent without being wordy. She strikes the perfect balance between expressions of the heart and mind, resulting in songs that make you think while touching the heart. You can catch Beady Belle at Ronnie Scott’s in London on May 6th.

(CW) 4/5