Chemical Reaction, album ✵ 2020 ✵ bookmark music.
Beth Wimmer’s timely new album “Chemical Reaction” ignites with themes of love, death, a fox, and chemistry.
Chemical Reaction, co-produced by Billy Watts and Wimmer, presents ten new Americana songs written by Wimmer and performed with her long-time musical partners from Los Angeles, the Mojo Monkeys’ David Raven on drums (Shelby Lynne, Keith Richards, Norah Jones); Taras Prodaniuk on bass (Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams); and Billy Watts (Eric Burdon & the Animals, John Mayall, Jackson Browne) on guitars. The well-respected roots-musicians, who formed their swamp-rock power-trio Mojo Monkeys 30 years ago, also recorded with Wimmer on “Bookmark” (2017) as well as her first two albums, back in Wimmer’s Los Angeles days.
Billy Watts’ decades of intuitive, soul-studied, conversational guitar-playing has earned him a signature style appreciated by fans and fellow musicians worldwide. This unique and sensitive style informs his creative choices as music producer. Throughout “Chemical Reaction”, it is Watts who brings the smoldering radiating electric presence to the songs’ productions, and offers soulful background vocal arrangements. In 2019, Watts, a native Canadian, was nominated for the prestigious Grammy award as guitarist in the band Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, in the contemporary blues album category. Billy says, of “Chemical Reaction”: “Beth has written a selection of wonderful songs with themes that touch the hearts of us all.”
The variously themed songs of “Chemical Reaction” are graced with select guest musicians. There are more than a few songs on the topic of love, yet each one is written distinctly within its own theme. The title track, “Chemical Reaction”, sings praises for chemistry that bonds a couple even through ‘inclement weather’ and is written in terms of chemistry. “Better Than You Think” visits the slightly noir side of a romance and features silky keyboard parts from Christof Waibel, of Hohenems, Austria, accented with tasty classical guitar, samba style, from Watts. “Restless Melody” lulls the listener through a lush ballad of love about the dance of songwriting, while Aaron Till’s viola soars sweetly throughout. Then we learn about Wimmer’s faults in the rocking “My Bad Side”, where she tells the truth and strives to be a better person. “When I Die” is a surprisingly upbeat, country-informed number where Wimmer speaks to the universal question, and shares her worries of what will happen to her when she dies. “Heavy” is a soul-infused confession of vulnerability and offer for emotional support. “Fox On The Highway” haunts with hopelessness over man’s inhumanity to man, and animals. All the while, Watts’ electric guitar swells, his dobro speaks, and his lap steel weaves through these themes, with voices and agreed phrases of their own.
“Chemical Reaction” glows warmly to the end, with songs of love strong and lasting because of chemistry: “Beating Better”; and through the seasons: “Cold Rain”, again with rich viola presence from Till and swirling keyboards from Waibel. The album's last number is a frisky shuffle, a plea for good night kisses and “dessert in bed”, in “Sugar Daddy”. It’s here we hear the playful voice of country singer, Suzie Candell (DE), on harmony vocals, chiming in for sweet measure.
The Texas-born, long-time “Angeleno”, David Raven, mixed the ten tunes of “Chemical Reaction” in his Honky Abbey Studio in Los Angeles. Watts and Wimmer were confident in turning over the recordings to Raven’s capable hands, and ears, knowing his role as drummer, percussionist and vocalist on the album would lend him special feeling for the right mood for each song.
The combined chemistry among this team of sensitive players formulates a sea of powerful grooves, upon which Beth Wimmer’s warm, honest and experienced voice floats, dives deep, and soars above (“like the birds she loves” - ‘My Bad Side’) throughout the flow of “Chemical Reaction”.