Never Say Goodbye
By Al Kaufman
The idea of putting out an unplugged acoustic CD is nothing new, but few are able to utilize the form to its full effect the way Sarah Bettens. A superstar in Europe, especially Belgium, Bettens is essentially known in the US for the song "Not an Addict," a '90s hit she scored with her band, K’s Choice.
That song, a few choice covers, and some new material all make up the live Never Say Goodbye, which showcases Bettens pitch-perfect vocals more than anything else she has ever done. Her version of Bonnie Raitt’s "I Can’t Make You Love Me" is as stellar as the original. In fact, it’s probably a little too close to the original. Her cover of Julie London’s "Cry Me a River," may seem at first to be a kitschy choice from an alt-rock queen, but it turns out to be a gorgeous song that she nails.
Betten’s songs, like her covers, tend to be emotional without being maudlin. Even something like "Daddy’s Gun," in which a child accidentally shoots her best friend, does not cross the line, but it will give you a tightness in your chest the first (and second, and third) time you hear it. Stripped down to their core, the songs here take on a whole new intensity. Some, such as (oddly enough) "Scream," do not reach the intensity of others, but it’s good to have a breather once in a while. Others, like the uplifting "Follow Me," pack a heftier punch as Betten's cracking voice conveys a needy pleading that gets lost in the more polished original. Beautiful stuff.
Sarah Bettens plays The Nick in Birmingham, Ala. on September 22. Tickets are available at Ticket Alternative.