BETH WIMMER – Chemical Reaction (Bookmark Music)

Chemical ReactionC8H11NO2 + C10H12N2O + C43H66N12O12S2; it may not sound romantic, but that, according to scientists, is the chemical formula for love, a combination of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Others have broken it down as phenylethylamine, which is released during the process of falling in love and produces that feeling of elation, while norepinephrine causes that pounding heart and dopamine is associated with mate selection.

On the other hand, on the title track of her latest album, Swiss-based American singer-songwriter Wimmer describes it as that feeling “deep inside my nucleus with your wild atomic radius” that keeps the connection strong, especially when it’s set to a steady rolling groove that calls to mind those heady Joni Mitchell days of 70s Laurel Canyon.

Again backed by the Mojo Monkeys, drummer David Raven, bassist Taras Prodaniuk and Billy Watts, who co-produced, on guitars, it’s a sophisticated brew of blues, soul and Americana, striking up a samba infused sultry sway on ‘Better Than You Think’, Christof Waibel laying down the Hammond and Wurlitzer groove as Wimmer sings how she’s “gonna squeeze you in the mountain fresh air/in my underwear” and then, following a bluesy Watts solo, doing it again, “naturally bare”.

Things rock up for the driving ‘My Bad Side’, again with that SoCal vibe as she owns up to her darker inclinations (“look at me and see a nice person/but I fail sometimes passing the test/my mind has thoughts of the things I want climbing over others to get it”), even if she’s working hard to keep them under control (“so I must let die/the part of me says hell to you all”).

Aaron Till brings viola to the party for the slow waltzing ‘Restless Melody’ where music and love dance together, sometimes up close when it “feels like a husband and wife” and sometimes needing to be reeled back in while she’s “trying to find the key to keep you close to me” and with the droll musicianly line that “if my words should fail me now, what I can do is hum a bridge over to you”.

‘When I Die’ is the most obvious country track, Raven’s brushed drums and the acoustic guitar scurrying it along as she ponders the afterlife (“can I meet my brother, will I miss my cats/will I even think of other souls like that”), bringing it back to the running theme of love as she sings how “it’s not the dying part that scares me it’s the unknown without you”, but, in the meanwhile, “life is for the living/and lucky we can do it well”.

Shifting styles again, underpinned by Waibel’s keys, ‘Heavy’ is soulful, gospel-shaded number about vulnerability and the need for emotional support as she asks “is my head heavy on you?” and the track conjures thoughts of Dobie Gray and Van Morrison.

Changing lyrical tack, featuring dobro and pedal steel, ‘Fox On The Highway’ is a slow, organ-backed, intimately sung blues tinged folk lament about man’s inhumanity to animals (“elephant tusk on display/my heart beats fast, my mind races/I burn to the core in my shame”) and, by extention to the human race itself (“synagogue holy place/in church and mosque we are safe/my heart beats fast my mind races/what you blew away with your hate”) where owls are admired not for their beauty but how “they silently glide for their prey”.

The pace and the mood pick up again for the bouncy, optimistic ska-influenced ‘Beating Better’ (“you make me feel good under my hood/keep my motor running right on time”), the album winding down with a return to country roots (Linda Ronsdtadt?) on ‘Cold Rain’, Till returning on viola solo with the inclement weather serving as a metaphor for being apart and longing for the return of the sunshine and “we’ll stoke the fire for the year ahead”.

It ends in sassy style with the syncopated New Orleans shuffle of the goodtime ‘Sugar Daddy’ where confectionery becomes the sexual imagery as she sings how “Baby Ruth, Charleston Chew, they satisfied, tried and true/but your candy bar is the best by far” and that she likes “to wait till it’s nice and late, and get dessert in bed” and satisfy her “evening sweet tooth”. Sexy, sly and soulful, it’s an album that definitely passes the litmus test.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Chemical Reaction’ – official video: