Baroque Betty is a unique quartet hailing from Eugene, Oregon. The group features Betty Jaeger (vocals), Michelle Whitlock (violin), Nanci McDonald (cello) and Jon Conlon (bass). Previously known as Betty and the Boy, the group’s configuration was different and leaned heavily into bluegrass and modern folk. Baroque Betty has released Sobering Up under their new setup, a haunting EP where folk meets contemporary classical.
The opening title track has the most folk trappings with the acoustic guitar and upright bass leading the instrumental charge. Jaeger’s vocal melodies on this tune are earworms, and her relatable lyrics are hard to forget as she croons about an old lover. Even with its folk nature, the strings on “Sobering Up” give the song a classical flair with plucking strings and a beautiful violin solo from Whitlock. “My Monster and Me” heads into darker territory. Jaeger again flashes her vocal talent, but is now comparing the song's subject to a monster, singing, “Hold me closely / while I shiver and you sharpen your teeth.” The droning strings are ominous while an occasional wailing violin, shrill in comparison, accents the vocals.
“Automata” is another grim tune, describing a robot with seemingly no free will. Jaeger sings, “And Automata, she’s empty as the moon / You can fill her up with whatever you choose / Be your perfect bride or your lovely noose.” This song also features some of Whitlock’s best playing on the EP. Baroque Betty’s folk roots show again on “Misery for Free.” It’s a criticism of America's culture and values, and enthralling solo’s from Whitlock and McDonald act as the song’s bridge.
Unfortunately, “That’s How We Pray” misses the mark as a closing track. It fits the vibe that Baroque Betty has set on the EP, but that is also its problem. Some experimentation with the arrangement or more closure in the lyrics may have remedied this. However, this does not have a significant impact on the quality of Sobering Up overall.
The talent assembled in Baroque Betty is clear from the start of their debut EP Sobering Up. The tense and gripping project is a unique take on folk and contemporary classical, featuring beautiful arrangements and thoughtful lyrics.
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