Betty Benedeadly hails originally from Austin, Texas and is the co-founder of Sheverb, a psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll collective who have been in existence since around 2017 and whose most recent album Once Upon A Time In Bombay Beach came out in August 2020. Following an ongoing general disillusionment with life in the big city, Betty decided to relocate to Northern New Mexico and the town of Taos in particular, to record tracks for this her debut solo EP From The Mesa, which is being released on Desert Records. This is a label who I have subscribed to recently and whose catalogue I have had the pleasure of delving into as of late.
The album’s cover art by Betty and Abby Apple, evokes the spirit of Sergio Leone’s classic Spaghetti Westerns crossed with an otherworldly Alejandro Jodorowsky brand of mystical surreal imagery. Like all great art it allows me to escape my current surroundings, which seeing as I am based in a fairly nondescript North-West English town is no bad thing.
In addition to the artwork, what also caught my attention was the description from Betty herself of the healing properties of her new surroundings ‘I left the city feeling like a shell of a human. I came back to life in the desert’. Betty isn’t the only person to find the desert beneficial for purposes of musical creation as the Palm Desert Scene would attest to, what with artists such as Yawning Man, Brant Bjork and Josh Homme all paying homage to that type of environment. Taken in conjunction with the artwork, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to review this release.
I urge you to check out From The Mesa as soon as possible…
The first track Mescaline Prayer Song starts with the slow foot-stomping and rattling of cowboy boot spurs before a strong authentic Western influenced guitar twang comes into the picture. Around the one minute fifty mark the pace increases and takes an almost punk influenced approach, which seeing as Betty’s home city of Austin is known for the likes of legendary outfits such as The Dicks and Big Boys, should come as no great surprise. The pacing of the track also reminds me of the Western tinged vibes of The Vandals’ Urban Struggle which featured in the 1984 Penelope Spheeris film Suburbia (and also starred Red Hot Chilli Peppers bassist Flea).
From there we’re led onto Coyote’s Fever Dream, a delicious slow burner that takes one into the imaginarium of hot desert days and bone chilling nights. It’s evident from this number that Betty has clearly been influenced by her new environment, and according to the United States Census Bureau as New Mexico is the sixth least densely populated state in the US, this would go some way to explaining the feelings of both sparseness and remoteness evoked by this track.
Final number Down The Gorge taps into Ennio Morricone with a few surf influences peppered in along the way, although it should be pointed out that the latter has little to nothing in common with the poppier wing of the genre of say The Beach Boys or Jan and Dean, and more in line with the menacing timbre of Link Wray. A brooding, understated conclusion to the EP.
As you may have surmised from my review, I thought this to be a fantastic release and if the likes of the aforementioned Ennio Morricone, the underrated and overlooked Spindrift, and even post reunion Earth quicken your pulse, then I urge you to check out From The Mesa as soon as possible.
Scribed by: Reza Mills