A lot happens in five years. Marriages start, marriages crumble, daughters run away, innocence is lost, husbands punch their wives in the face, and those lost causes we’ve resigned to the wind get sober and start over. Children are born – but some don’t make it past five.
During the five years since her last album of original material, BettySoo zigzagged her way across the North American and European continents more than a few times. Mostly, she toured. Every other minute, she was flying to visit best friends in rehab, driving for days with friends whose family lives were crumbling, visiting mental hospitals, going to houses and cleaning kitchens and bathrooms when friends had no will left to do it themselves.
As an insomniac and someone who understands depression from her own life-long struggle, maybe she was exactly where she and her friends needed her to be: in the thick of it, reminded of how fragile the balancing act can be for people like herself whose mental health isn’t solid as a rock. And perhaps she did exactly what she needed to do: she wrote dozens of songs - capturing those seemingly endless moments of grief, loneliness, and loss, and those fleeting moments of joy and love - and she recorded twelve of those songs on her new album When We’re Gone.
Produced together with Brian Standefer at his studio in Buda, Texas, When We’re Gone is an intimate look into private spaces in life. Wall-hung sinks (“The Things She Left Town With”), cluttered floorboards (“Josephine”), packed suitcases at the door (“Hold Tight”), and crumpled clothing at a young girl’s feet (“Summertime”) – these are the furniture for the setting, but center stage is BettySoo’s voice, her melodies, and the unmistakable texture of Brian’s cello.
BettySoo and Standefer performed the bulk of the record themselves, layering cello on cello, voices on voices, guitars on guitars, and piano whenever it begged to be played, but the album also features several of their closest friends (who happen to be some of Texas’ finest players): Glenn Fukunaga on bass, Dave Terry and Rick Richards on drums and percussion, Joey Colarusso on clarinet and flute (“Lullaby”), Will Sexton on guitar (“The Things She Left Town With,” “Summertime”), and Lloyd Maines on pedal steel (“Last Night”).
Previous albums have garnered successively greater and numerous positive reviews. The Austin American-Statesman says BettySoo has "exceptionally well-arranged songs, as easily equal in precision to, say, Patty Griffin or Alison Krauss…a confidence that speaks volumes,” and KUT praises her "beautiful, heart-wrenching songs that are also edgy and unwavering." BettySoo’s last album, Heat Sin Water Skin, received a great deal of radio airplay, including spins at influential Non-Comm/Triple A stations WFUV, WXPN, KGSR, KUT, KDRP and SiriusXM’s The Loft.
When We’re Gone builds on this previous success, brimming with what feels like newfound confidence and strength. Perhaps all the shared brokenness from the past five years is paying its dividends.