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"Open Your Eyes" by Bethany Dyson

Review

Did you enjoy the sumptuous, popular & acclaimed track "Just You & Me" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Three'?  If, like me, you did, you'll be delighted to learn that Bethany Dyson has managed to release a new single "Open Your Eyes", beating lockdown to record it.

As a follow up to "Just You & Me" (which was her last single as well as appearing on our local showcase of the finest talent in Coventry & Warwickshire), the new song (written by Bethany with guitarist/keyboard player Chris Hague) also features Joel White on piano, Style Councillor Steve White on drums & bass player David Glover and was produced by Chris and David, the mastering being courtesy of Simon Francis.

As "Just You & Me" turned its gaze upon issues of mental well being, "Open Your Eyes" inhabits a similarly compassionate world and at this point it is worth saying that Bethany's words in this respect are greatly enhanced by her choice of delivery style. A few too many singers with obvious natural ability choose to use songs as showcase vehicles for their range, power & tricks (I'm sorry but in my experience the term "diva" was far from being some sort of compliment necessarily): Bethany is emphatically not one of these. I'm not quite sure I'd go with the "raw" description of her work (her writing is as polished as her warm vocal tones) but I'd most definitely agree with "straight talking" and "honest" and such virtues as I say are as inherent in how she sings this song as what she says in it.

As with the previous single, you can't really ignore the pedigree of the musicians she is fortunate enough to work with (and I'm sure they would not choose to work with Bethany unless they admired and respected her work as I do) but the result is not some sort of high end professional piece, all gloss & little substance, but the work of players who have also played with artists of the unquestionable integrity of Paul Weller, Pulp, Finlay Quaye etc. Let's hope Bethany's eventual commercial success matches some of those.

As before, I'm glad that we can use "cross genre" about her work as this song is styled to its own meaning & not a rigid stylistic classification. Elements of blues & jazz lurk agreeably but I'd say that in this instance soul possibly has the upper hand with strong echoes of early 1970s versions of that style.

It all works very well as "an irresistible piece of dreamy and soulful pop" yet I think that it is so much more than that & I'm sure Bethany intends it to be so. It exhorts us to rise to the challenges around us and to use a pathway of honesty & truth to do so. Clearly viewing the world in such a way is vital to this, but we should not forget that we are part of that world & we should examine ourselves just as objectively.


As I say, it's not just what Bethany writes & sings, however beautiful & uplifting a first listen might be. Listen again (and again) please and really take onboard her deeper meanings & the spirit in which she performs the song. Then go out and live your way as she recommends. It's for the best.


Check out also the charming  video Bethany again just managed to get completed with Paul Newbold of Lightspark Music Photography while such things were still possible: it's at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puYGxBYreNY&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR28IkNlOYzG95IqEc3eA52GxRT7JlA9DyRMJFxKXdtxJxmcXtn7UvrwKMY

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"Just You & Me" by Bethany Dyson

Review

My apologies to Bethany Dyson whose latest single "Just You & Me" has been out several weeks: I suppose one defence for my delay in reviewing it has been the sheer amount of great local music which is currently coming out (I guess my reviews reflect the quantity & the quality too) but I don't like being so slow off the mark, especially as I haven't previously reviewed her work.

Well what can I say: this is an artist already on many people's musical radar (this song has been a BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Introducing Tune of the Week) & I'm sure on many of yours.

Bethany's writing & performing serve to reinforce my thesis, repeated relentlessly in these pages , that we are in the midst of a particularly glorious age for local music with a diversity of sound, coupled with quality of writing & performance but perhaps most impressively, each artist is so confident in their own artistic voice that while enjoying & supporting each other, none feels pressured into sounding like anyone other than themselves....

Despite this admirable individuality, what also strikes me is a common thread working through the work of several other of our local writers (such as Taylor-Louise, Hannah Woof, Chessi  O'Dowd or Naomi Beth) and that is mental health. "Just You & Me" also relates to this theme.... I wonder why so many people are turning the focus of their creative thought on this issue? The times in which we find ourselves? In any event, I find it greatly to their credit & on a personal level I appreciate it too.

We are so lucky that our local musicians are deservedly become more & more known outside Coventry & Warwickshire but even so, it is a really pleasant surprise to find among the credits on a song, names who are known to me already from their work with artists from outside our area & this must be another indicator of how (at least in cases such as this), the esteem in which "our" musicians are held is at a high level. In this case, drummer Steve White  first arrived on my record deck as a member of the Style Council & of course has gone on to play with head Councillor Paul Weller & the Who.  Bass player Yolanda Charles is known to me through her work with one of my favourite bands Squeeze & has also played with Robbie Williams... now if you can get people like that to play with you... you must be darned good.  To complete the credits I must cite  horn player Bryan Corbett (Brand New Heavies), Hammond organ player Joel White (Hague and White, Pulp, Finlay Quaye), guitarist and track co-writer David Stevenson (The Dream Factory) and  Genevieve Sylva on backing vocals.

Now having built up expectations over several paragraphs, what does it sound like? Well with players like this (and may I say an excellent production), the result is pretty sublime. If you do choose to tackle issues such as mental health, I suppose pure reportage is going inevitably create a dark & sombre song: I can think of several great examples along these lines. Alternatively, you can choose the Bethany strategy & try to offer a healing option through an uplifting track which seeks to acknowledge the problem but offer a potential solution: and this is the core of the philosophy of "Just Me & You", using a pincer movement on our psyches with the message of the lyrics being reinforced by a carefully honed musical setting.

As noted, there are quite a few elements in the sound picture but the production blends them effectively while keeping each so distinct that it impacts upon us.  I'm glad that Bethany self describes as "cross genre" as once again I'm pleased to report on a song which does not sit easily within the limitations of a single style. "Soulful" and "pop" are descriptions used about the track & rightly so, but there is a really nice (swing) jazz feel which certainly adds to the overall benevolent effect.

Quite apart from her writing skills, Bethany is another locally based singer whose voice is so distinct that you couldn't mistake it for any other: even listening carefully for any obvious influences among famous singers only resulted in my hearing short echoes which seemed reminiscent only for the moment to fade into another. This voice also delivers what others see as another of her strengths:  a clarity of purpose in her lyrics: which is certainly achieved here, though perhaps without the "rawness" detected in her other work which honestly would not be very appropriate with this piece, yet with some delightfully ecstatic moments which raised the "joy" level for me. I wonder if they were scripted or "in the moment"? They sound authentically the latter.

"Just You & Me" landed upon my consciousness a little later than it should have, but on a challenging day and it made a difference to me which I am pleased to report & which its creator intended.

You probably found Bethany's work before I reviewed this, but if you have not, I advise you to do so. She tells me that she has been recording more material for release in 2020 over the past fortnight, so look out for those songs too. I shall.

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