Please get into Betty Wright turning out this performance of “In The Middle Of The Game (Don’t Change The Play)” on Jools Holland with his orchestra across the pond. Voice in full effect, working the stage, the guests, the audience, the maestro, and all the while knowing that a) she wrote the song and b) that that is how it should really be done.
If you haven’t picked up Betty Wright’s newest album Betty Wright: The Movie, which features her alongside the crackpot team of The Roots, Betty Wright spins a soulful, cautionary, and motherly role as a Soul Advisor and Musical Ingenue reborn. Her songs are poignant yet matronly; soulful yet painful at times; and even funky and current with guests sprinkled in like Snoop Dogg and Lil’ Wayne.
Betty Wright commands a presence, be it by her pen or her voice, that even such luminaries as Snoop (“Real Woman”), ?uestlove, Lenny Wright (“Baby Come Back”), Lil’ Wayne (“Grapes On A Vine”) and Joss Stone (“Whisper In The Wind”) can’t upstage her. She takes center stage on her latest album and let me tell you, an album it is. Front to back, it’s a solid picture of what soul, R&B, and blues should have evolved to. No radio filler, no overly quantized synths, and no majorly auto-tuned vocals. Betty’s voice is as powerful as ever, and the roughness around the edges is proof positive that a true songstress ages with time. Yet and still, she is apt to break out her whistle notes on the regular to show the current crop of “soul” singers that there is no copycatting one of the originals.
I feel like Betty Wright is one of the unsung heroes of her decades that never really got as much shine as she should have. Most folks know “Clean Up Woman”, but she’s been influential even in her later years as a vocal coach, producer, songwriter, and all around music industry legend. Betty Wright: The Movie was hands down one of my Top 5 albums of 2011, and you’re doing yourself a severe disservice if you haven’t even spun this record at least once and you consider yourself a fan of soul music.