Eric Bettencourt came out of the gate hard-charging in early 2009, with the ambitious LP Fine Old World, followed before the year was out by a full-band full-length (The Giraffe Attack Collection) and another solo EP. Then he took a little time for self-examination.
The result is the beautiful Secret Songs for Secret People, an album where every note is well placed, Bettencourt errs on the side of simplicity, and there are a lot of elegant songs that are easy to listen to. He gets a ton of help — there are 13 listed guest musicians, including three drummers — and uses a couple of locations (great mixing work by Noah Cole), but the album is remarkably cohesive and indicative of well-executed vision over the course of 10 tight songs that come in under 29 minutes.
The sound is something between folk and light rock, with Bettencourt's work on his acoustic guitar getting more intense and impressive as the album goes along. The instrumental "Secret Songs" has terrific drive, "Old Grim" is crisp delta blues, and the finishing "The Road Seldom Traveled" pairs that quick acoustic guitar work well with Tim Garrett's cello.
Bettencourt also makes good use of Sara Hallie Richardson's backing vocals in the resonating "Mast" and Amanda Gervasi in the bouncy "Dreamed," where violist Kallie Ciechomski alternates interestingly between plucked strings and quickly bowed trills.
Really, he doesn't do much wrong here. It's a fine little collection of love songs and introspection, with plenty of nuance to keep you listening closely.
SECRET SONGS FOR SECRET PEOPLE | Released by Eric Bettencourt | with Scott Peterson | at One Longfellow, in Portland | Nov 17 | eric-bettencourt.com
: CD Reviews
, Music, Eric Bettencourt, Eric Bettencourt, More