After hearing and enjoying up to a point, Austin, Texas BettySoo’s solo album I was more than just pleasantly surprised with Across the Borderline. The meeting of Soo and Vancouver Island, Canada act Doug Cox came about when the couple, who live 2,500 miles apart met while teaching guitar at Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp. I had my doubts whether Soo had it in her to improve on her most recent solo album, Heat Sin Water Skin but boy, she does that and more. A strong vocalist, Soo who measures exactly five feet also provides s great warmth to her voice as she performs songs from a well-chosen selection of songwriters. Cox, who sings lead on Loudon Wainwright’s "There’s A Baby In The House" and shares vocal duties on the Blaze Foley tune "Big Cheeseburgers And Good French Fries" slots in perfectly alongside Soo. Although it is her singing of Doug Sahm’s story-ballad "Louis Riel" that wins my vote as the best piece on an album set to give Soo that necessary lift, and see her gain the recognition she truly deserves. There is also the small matter of Cox’s wondrous dobro playing that is played with great skill and never intrusive —a musician's musician.
In choosing songwriters who aren’t necessarily household names, though to many of you reading this review this will not be the case, they do the songwriting community a fine service. Soo and Cox have I feel done a wonderful job in giving the ten songs featured wings to fly and ensure they aren't forgotten in a hurry. Not that there is much chance Guy Clark’s "Dublin Blues" is likely to be. However Soo does a terrific job on it. Likewise can be said of fellow Texas singer-songwriter icon Butch Hancock’s (Flatlanders) eerie "Boxcars", Betty Elders’ sensitive "Light In your Window" and David Halley’s "Ain’t Gonna Make You Mine". Soo’s firm vocals immediately command the listener’s attention, and it is that way throughout. For her version of it alone I would have no hesitation in recommending purchase of the record. But as already noted you know there is lots more on offer. Good it is too. As the likes of the wondrous "Every Other Road" that possesses some sweet Dobro and Soo’s lead vocals to savour. On the subject of savour that is a term I would readily hand to their powerful, impassioned version of Jeff Talmadge’s "Lie To Me" (and Jane Silbury's wistful, beautifully constructed folk leaning gem "You Don't Need"), the perfect album opener if ever there was. It is as if right there and then the gauntlet has been thrown down and the benchmark set for what is to follow.
- Maurice Hope
Footnote: And the good news is, they will tour England and Scotland in September.