Singer-songwriter Beth Hart first came to the world’s attention with her 1999 single, LA Song (Out of This Town). Since then, she’s topped the blues charts on numerous occasions, both as a solo artist and with frequent collaborator, Joe Bonamassa, picked up a small army of Grammy nominations, and won over millions of fans around the world with her confessional lyrics and visceral, Janis Joplin-esque vocals. Here’s our pick of ten of the best Beth Hart songs of all time.
10. Mama This One’s For You
The 2015 album Better Than Home heralded the arrival of a new production team (after making three records together, Kevin Shirley was out and Rob Mathes and Michael Stevens were in) and a new direction for Hart. Gone were the gritty blues, replaced with introspective ballads and soulful melodies. It was a brave choice, and a rewarding one, with Hart’s raw, aching vocals providing the perfect counterfoil to the brooding, contemplative song choices. Mama This One’s For You, a heartbreakingly tender ballad written by Hart for her mother, is particularly lovely.
2003’s Leave the Light On gave Hart her European breakthrough, reaching the top 20 in several countries and certifying 2x platinum in Denmark. It’s a triumphant album, alternating between muscular rockers like Bottle of Jesus and Broken & Ugly and the touching delights of acoustic ballads like Lifetime, an achingly tender song that finds Hart layering her distinctive vocals over a soft Hammond organ to devastating effect.
8. Black Coffee
Beth Hart and guitarist Joe Bonamassa began teaming up in 2011, releasing their third studio collaboration, Black Coffee, in 2018. Individually, they’re each a master of their own game; together, they’re almost unstoppable, with Bonamassa’s bluesy shredding complementing Hart’s rootsy intensity to perfection. The title track is that rare thing – a cover song that’s equal to the original. Tina Turner might be a difficult performer to match up to, but here, Hart succeeds. It even comes close to beating Humble Pie’s career-defining cover.
7. Lifts You Up
Any female artist with a bit of an edge to her voice is likely to get the Janis Joplin comparison at some point, but Beth Hart is one of the few who deserves it, delivering classic rock through the same personal, honest lens and with the same generous helping of grit. On the triumphant 2003 album Leave the Light, Harts’s scaled-back, rootsy approach to rock comes up trumps, resulting in one scorching song after another. Lifts You Up, a searingly honest account of the push and pull of life, opens up the album in spectacular style, combining what All Music describes as one of the finest anthemic R-A-W-K hooks in a chorus since Delaney & Bonnie with a sympathetic arrangement of buzzsaw guitars, piano, bass, drums, and hand percussion.
6. Just a Little Hole
Three years after releasing her debut album, Immortal, Hart returned with Screamin’ for My Supper, a mature, expertly constructed record that left the listener in no doubt about either Hart’s ambitions, or her capabilities. Its opener, Just a Little Hole, is one of the highlights, a late-night, bluesy affair with smokey vocals, a hint of gospel, and a delicate ribbon of heartbreak and regret holding the whole thing together.
5. Through the Window Of My Mind
The 2012 album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, became one of Hart’s biggest commercial successes till that point, climbing to number 3 on the US Billboard Blues Album Chart (her first-ever entry on the chart), and charting in another 10 countries. Named one of the best Beth Hart songs of all time by bluesrockreview.com, Through the Window Of My Mind is one of the album’s highlights, combining a haunting melody with an uplifting message. Hart’s vocals, meanwhile, are as intoxicating as ever.
4. Delicious Surprise
At the time Screamin’ For My Supper was released in 2003, Hart was already winning acclaim from music journalists, but the rave reviews hadn’t yet translated into commercial success. The album proved something of a surprise hit in New Zealand, reaching number 21, but it failed to replicate the success elsewhere, stalling at number 143 on the US Billboard 200. Its second single, Delicious Surprise, also failed to make any kind of impression in the charts, although its punchy, rootsy charm did later go on to give country artist Jo Dee Messina a top 40 hit on the country charts.
3. I’ll Take Care of You
Hart’s first collaboration with Joe Bonamassa, 2011’s Don’t Explain, was a success, taking the pair to number 3 on the US Billboard Blues Album Chart, number 22 on the UK Albums Chart, and charting in the top 20 across various other countries. The album consists of a collection of covers that range from Tom Wait’s Chocolate Jesus to Etta James’ Something’s Got a Hold on Me. There’s also a sensational cover of Bobby Bland’s I’ll Take Care of You – a song that’s been covered by hundreds of artists over the years (including Van Morrison, Etta James, Mick Hucknall, and Gil Scott-Heron), but rarely quite so beautifully as here.
2. Leave the Light On
Even on an album as near-perfect as Leave the Light On, the title track stands out as something special. To the accompaniment of a charged arrangement of piano, pedals, layered guitars, and strings, Hart delivers a scorching confessional about fear, loneliness, and hope that’s almost painful in its intimacy. Ripe in emotion, rich in complexity, and stunning in its execution, power ballads rarely get better than this.
1. LA Song (Out of This Town)
In at number one on our list of the 10 best Best Hart songs of all time is the song that bought the singer her first taste of fame, LA Song (Out of This Town). Described by Hart as a song “about emerging from depression and self-doubt to the realization that who you are isn’t about where you are or what’s around you but that “the good life lies within,” it took Hart to the charts for the first time, reaching the top 5 of the US Adult Contemporary, the Top 10 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 charts, and making it all the way to number 1 in New Zealand.